March 16, 2011

National Geographic Channel’s Expedition Granted: Save Wild Orangutans in Indonesia

Orangutans share 97% of their DNA with humans. Look at that little guy up there — doesn’t it remind you of climbing trees when you were little?

They are part of the family of great apes that make up our closest living wild relatives — using tools, making their beds and able to communicate via sign language with us. When we think of orangutans, most of us probably picture magnificent red-haired beings swinging gracefully through trees and ridiculously adorable babies with awesome heads of hair. In fact their very name means “Man of the Forest” and in the past, people would not kill them because they felt the orangutan was simply a person hiding in the trees…

Unfortunately, times have changed and orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra are spiraling fast to extinction — both critically endangered because of humans. Habitat loss, climate change and illegal hunting for both meat and the live pet trade have combined to push these species to the brink.

So what can we do to help?

If we have any hope of saving orangutans in the wild, we need to make sure there is wild left for them to live in. And secondly, we’ve got to protect the small populations we have left from poaching.

More than 100,000 nature reserves or parks exist across the globe today to protect the world’s most beautiful places and important wildlife. Many assume that these parks ensure the protection of wildlife and habitats, but reports from the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimate that up to 70% of the world’s parks are failing to do their job — these parks have come to be known as “paper parks”. With little to no on-the-ground protection, funding for park rangers or even signs to outline park borders, these parks are literally just lines drawn on a map. In Asia, and in particular Indonesia, the problem is critical — the illegal wildlife trade is rampant and rates of deforestation are the highest in the world.

National Geographic Channel kicked off its Expedition Granted contest last Sunday and Young Explorer Trevor Frost will compete for funding to launch an expedition to Asia to stop poaching and deforestation in Asia.


The Paper Park Expedition team will work with scientists, both local and international, to pinpoint conservation strategies within the parks that are working and those that are failing. This scientific information will prove critical to understanding where additional resources and energy are best applied. The second objective of the expedition is to compile a multimedia documentation of the work of the park rangers who dedicate their lives, often for little or no money and at great personal risk, to protecting these parks and wildlife.

Many local people in Asia are working hard to protect these iconic creatures, but to save them, it’s going to have to be a global effort. Right now, you can vote for Trevor.


You can vote once a day and the contest will commence on April 6, when National Geographic will award the explorer with the most votes funding for their expedition. And if doing your part to save orangutans isn’t enough… every time you vote, your name is entered into a drawing to win a trip to the Galapagos.

Vote early. Vote often. And if you want to learn about more ways you can help out one of our closest living relatives, check this out.

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