Orangutans face a new threat: the coronavirus | Global Ideas | DW | 19.08.2020
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Orangutans face a new threat: the coronavirus

Once captive orangutans learn how to live in the wild again at Sumatra's ape school. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made teaching our close cousins difficult. They're open to catching the virus too.

Watch video 06:18

Homeschooling in the orangutan jungle school

Project goal: Establish a new orangutan population in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park and protect lowland rainforest

Project area: The Bukit Tigapuluh ("30 hills") rainforest is spread over 200,000 hectares

Implementation: Works to ensure orangutans previously held in illegal captivity before being confiscated by authorities can be reintroduced into the wild

Successes: Successful reintroduction of more than 175 orangutans so far

Orangutans are critically endangered. Not only has much of their habitat has been cleared to make way for palm oil and paper plantations, some animals are captured as babies, which means they no longer know how to live in the wild.

That's where the ape school on the Indonesian island of Sumatra comes in. There, conservationists teach orangutans how to climb trees, build nests and find food with the aim of reintroducing them into the rainforest.

But now the conservationists and orangutans must contend with a new danger.

Orangutan means "man of the forest" in the Malay language. The animals are closely related to humans, having 97% of DNA in common, and are also susceptible to the novel coronavirus. As a result, conservationists at the ape school are trying to balance their charges' education with protecting them from COVID-19.

A film by Anna Marie Goretzki and Inga Sieg

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