Who doesn’t love orangutans? By Clarissa A
Being a passionate primary school teacher and placing an emphasis on educating for sustainability in my lessons, I regard it as my duty to spread awareness about our planet’s endangered species. When my mother gave me an extremely adorable orangutan doll for my 25th birthday (yes 25th birthday) I simply had to introduce it to my students. Needless to say, they all fell in love with Coco and it marked the perfect beginning for a life-changing relationship with these gracious humans, sorry, animals.
With pictures, videos and virtual reality encounters, the students were just as amazed with the hairy creatures as I was when I first saw orangutans in their natural habitat in Sumatra, Indonesia. I taught the students a few basic Indonesian words such as “orang”, meaning “human”, and “hutan”, meaning “forest”, which have stuck with them ever since. Furthermore, we observed the primate‘s anatomy and physiology and discussed their behavior and diet. The kids loved the following facts which I‘d like to share with you:
- Orangutans and humans share 97% of the same DNA!
- Orangutans are experts in nest-building and even like to add features such as pillows, blankets, roofs, and bunk beds to their nests.
- Orangutans dislike the rain.
- Orangutans are among the most intelligent non-human primates.
- Female orangutans stay with their offspring for six or seven years.
During the course of our lessons, we learned about the orangutan’s ecology and took a closer look at the orangutan‘s habitat, which is dramatically diminishing. Inevitably, this made the students utterly worried and their immediate reaction was that we need to stop the extremely rapid deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. My students felt a sense of protection towards the orangutans which they had just established a connection with. Within seconds they proposed ideas on how to spread awareness on deforestation within the school community and we turned these ideas into action. The kids drew pictures, came up with slogans and had a cake stall to fundraise. In assembly, the class mentioned the importance of reducing our palm oil consumption in order to stop deforestation. The wake-up call spread quickly and has led to further research being conducted by my students throughout the school year. I knew it, everyone loves orangutans!