Spanish Soccer Star Kicks Off Orangutan Campaign
Spanish soccer star Carles Puyol, who captains FC Barcelona and led Spain to the World Cup title one year ago, is now tackling an even bigger challenge – saving orangutans.
Puyol is featured in “Act Now for Orangutans,” a new campaign from the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) that seeks to halt the orangutan’s dramatic slide towards extinction. Less than 66,000 wild orangutans are thought to remain in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra, and more than half of that population has been lost since 1950.
Puyol is the centrepiece of dramatic posters that state, “I Care – Do You?” and asks supporters to visit a website (www.actnowfororangutans.org) that provides information regarding orangutan conservation, re-forestation, and the palm oil crisis.
“The plight of the orangutan is an issue that touches me profoundly,” Puyol said. “When I was asked if I would support the campaign, I didn’t hesitate. Time is running out fast for these magnificent great apes and I’m proud to be part of efforts to save them.
The “Act Now for Orangutans” website will ask visitors to click to support GRASP’s plan to re-plant rainforest along the Gunung Leusur National Park in Sumatra, and will include a link to IAR’s orangutan rescue and rehabilitation programme in Borneo. Information will also be provided on palm oil, the lucrative but environmentally devastating crop that has played a central role in loss of orangutan habitat.
Puyol’s “Act Now for Orangutans” posters – which feature the 33-year old defender standing in front of images of orangutans in distress – are available in English, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesian.
GRASP was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2001 to respond to the global conservation crisis facing chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos and lift the threat of imminent extinction. GRASP is a unique alliance comprised of range states, U.N. agencies, conservation organizations, and private and corporate supporters.
“Orangutans face a very real threat of extinction, perhaps within the next few decades,” said Doug Cress, GRASP coordinator. “It will take a significant effort by leaders across all walks of life to halt this crisis, and we are very pleased that Carles has stepped up.”
International Animal Rescue (IAR) is a U.K.-based organization whose team in West Kalimantan, Borneo, rescues and rehabilitates orangutans whose forest home has been destroyed. Some are babies that have been caught from the wild, others are full-grown adults that have spent years in captivity as unwanted and neglected pets.
Led by Executive Director and Chief Veterinarian Karmele Llano Sanchez, the team works round the clock in the care of these primates with the aim of eventually returning them to protected areas of forest.
“In Borneo, as more and more rainforest is destroyed for palm oil plantations, humans and wildlife are forced to compete for space and resources,” Sanchez said. “In such a dire situation, it is hard to convince people that they should protect the orangutans, not persecute them.
“But Carles Puyol is a sporting hero in Indonesia and idolized by young and old. Thanks to him we will be able to spread our message to a vast new audience, raising their awareness of the desperate plight of the orangutan and encouraging them to support our efforts to save it.”