Reacquaint Yourself with a Distant Cousin at Como — Orangutan Awareness Weekend November 9-11

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A Press Release from the City of St. Paul:

Orangutans are considered one of the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 97 percent of the same DNA, yet experts predict wild orangutans could become extinct as natural populations in ten to twenty years. On November 9, 10 & 11, find out how to help these magnificent animals during Como Park Zoo & Conservatory’s Orangutan Awareness Weekend.

Learn about these amazing creatures first hand with a weekend full of special activities. There will be a scavenger hunt, orangutan zoo keeper talks, banana gardener talks, crafts, and games. Kids can see how they measure up to an orangutan by comparing their arm span against a 7 foot orangutan cut out.

Daily at 10:00am the orangutans will participate in a special enrichment activity. Enrichment activities enhance zoo environments for animals, stimulating them to investigate and interact with their surroundings. Como Zoo enriches animal environments by making changes to structures in their enclosures, presenting novel objects and smells for them to investigate and explore, and by changing how we present food to them. It encourages them to forage, hunt and handle their food in ways that are natural to them in the wild.

Recycle your cell and small handheld electronic device! Como has set up a permanent collection point to collect and recycle unwanted cell phones and handheld electronic devices. All items collected will be sent to Eco-Cell and Como will received funds for each donated item.  The funds raised will go to orangutan conservation projects that help preserve one of the most critically endangered species on earth, the orangutan. Como now also accepts:

  • cell phone accessories
  • iPods and MP3 players
  • handheld game systems
  • handheld gps units
  • laptops
  • e-readers
  • portable hard drives
  • Ink Jet Cartridges

Como Zoo participates in the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), which carefully manages and oversees all aspects of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) captive population of orangutans. Como Zoo Keeper Megan Elder is the International Orangutan Studbook Keeper for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) & serves as an advisor to the North American Orangutan SSP Steering Committee.

Como Zoo is currently home to four orangutans- Jambu (age 28), Amanda (age 36), Markisa (age 26), and Jaya (who is almost 6 years old). Sponsorship of Como’s orangutans are available through Como Friends and make a great gift!

Historically, orangutans were found throughout Southeast Asia and even as far north as China. But today with the rapid decline of their rainforest homes, orangutans live only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. It is estimated that suitable orangutan habitat in Malaysia and Sumatra has declined by more than 80 percent in the last two decades, and the wild population of Sumatran orangutans has dropped by nearly half.

According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme in February 2007, the spread of palm oil plantations and illegal logging to the national parks in Indonesia constitutes a conservation emergency for the critically endangered orangutan. Palm oil is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to trans fats, and is found in one of 10 supermarket products, including margarine, baked goods, sweets, detergents and lipsticks. There is also an increasing market for vegetable oil as a renewable fuel (biofuel), in response to the need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, and palm oil is currently considered the most productive source of biodiesel fuel. Organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme and the Indonesian government are working to find economically and environmentally responsible solutions.

Visitors can pick up a free shopping guide that includes products that use sustainable palm oil. This oil has been produced according to a set of environmental and social criteria designed to ensure the rights of local communities are respected and that no new primary forests or high conservation value areas have been cleared for palm oil production.

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About the author

Joy Peters

Joy Peters - co-creator and writer for

Besides Family Fun Twin Cities, I spend my 9 to 5 at a day job pursuing my weird passion for calendars and organizing things as a legal secretary. When I get home I spend my time with my four kids, 10, 6, 4 and 1. My amazing husband is both a full-time musician and full-time stay-at-home dad. Together we run a small radio empire — SiaNet Radio — playing, promoting and enjoying the wide variety of local music and art in the Twin Cities. I juggle all this while writing about exploring the Twin Cities with kids. I couldn’t be happier.

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