orangutan project

Georgia Nanscawen, the redheaded hockeyroos star striving to save the Sumatran Orangutans.

Georgia Nanscawen, a red headed Ambassador for The Orangutan Project, has recently spent some time visiting some other red heads at Perth Zoo. Having always had a deep fondness and great awe for orangutans, by joining TOP as an Ambassador she hopes to raise awareness about the perilous situation facing orangutans.

Being selected in the Hockeyroo’s in 2009 at the age of 17, Georgia instantly became one of the youngest Hockeyroo’s in history and at 20 years of age she became the youngest woman in history to play 100 games for Australia.

Georgia was excited to take some time out from her busy schedule recently and visit the beautiful Sumatran orangutans at Perth Zoo. There, she met up with TOP Conservation Project Coordinator Kylie Bullo to give TOP an exciting donation: four team shirts that have been signed by the Hockeyroos team. The Hockeyroos have had an amazing year, coming second at the World Cup and taking out the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

“I was amazed by the strength and agility of the orangutans, especially the young ones as they swung and hung upside down on the ropes, well above 10m off the ground,” says Georgia. “It’s heart breaking to know that such an amazing and intelligent species is facing extinction if we don’t act now to save them.”

The orangutan species is in peril, and facing a loss of habitat as more and more palm oil plantations expand across Borneo and Sumatra, devastating the dwindling natural rainforest. Palm oil plantations are created by destroying forest areas that are not only home to Critically Endangered orangutans, but a range of other threatened species including Sumatran rhinos, tigers, elephants, gibbons and proboscis monkeys.

Orangutans are highly intelligent and mesmerising creatures, sharing 97% of human genetics and being one of our closest relatives. It is a tremendous battle to help protect the orangutans’ habitat, which is constantly under threat due to illegal and legal land clearing.

Georgia believes it is extremely important that we continue to do all we can in our power to help protect these beautiful creatures from becoming extinct, with their admirable intelligence and so many shared similarities to human beings.

TOP will be auctioning these Hockeyroos shirts at upcoming events to raise much needed funds to support orangutan conservation.

Orangutans are only found on two islands, Borneo and Sumatra and they are classified as two distinct species reflecting this geographic distribution.

Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) are recognized as a distinct species from their Bornean relatives (Pongo pygmaeus). There are protected by law within Indonesia, are listed on appendix one of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and as Critically Endangered In the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Today they number only around 6,300 in the wild.

The biggest threat to their survival is loss of their rainforest habitat, largely due to conversion for palm oil and pulp paper plantations. Adult orangutans are frequently killed during as the forest is cleared, or as pests (e.g. if they raid farmers fruit crops at the forest edge) and any infants that survive usually end up in captivity as illegal pets. Bornean orangutans are listed as Endangered with approximately 55,000 remaining, yet it is estimated over 5,000 are being slaughtered each year.

The Orangutan Project (TOP) is a not-for-profit organisation, supporting orangutan conservation, rainforest protection, local community partnerships and the rehabilitation and reintroduction of displaced orangutans back to the wild, in order to save the two orangutan species from extinction. For more information on projects the TOP supports, visit www.orangutan.org.au