Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Story Of Chocolate The Orangutan

There are few better ways to get me to pay attention to an email than a photo of an adorable baby orangutan. 

The baby was named Chocolate. I clicked the link in the email to a short video of this sweet little red orphan courtesy of Rainforest Action Network. (You can click the link here if you'd like to see it too.)

Chocolate's story really tugged at my heartstrings. I started looking around for more about him, and quickly found Paul Hilton's story of Chocolate's dramatic rescue from his "masters", who planned to sell him. "Chocolate's Road To Freedom" includes this chilling passage:

"We identify the mothers with babies, then cut down the trees around them, leaving them with nowhere to run. Then we climb the tree and using a bamboo pole, we beat the mother close to death until she falls to the ground. Only when she is unconscious can we prise the infant from her grasp. We can sell a young orang-utan into the pet trade for about [HK $800 - HK$1,600], normally to Chinese businessmen, though sometimes to military or police officers."

Excuse a brief digression for a rant:
The pet trade is a devastating form of wildlife crime. I can't help feeling a sickening wave of anger and helplessness when I see wildlife being celebrated as pets on social media. Please, don't like or share videos or photos of "cute" slow lorises, fennec foxes, pangolins, oh the list is a long, sad one. 
Okay, back to Chocolate's story. It has a happy ending!

Chocolate before his rescue.
Photo Credit: Paul Hilton for SOCP

Hilton's team of wildlife photographers bargained to buy him and arranged to bring the money in two days. They took careful GPS coordinates and contacted the police and agencies for rescuing and rehabilitating orangutans. 

And soon Chocolate was saved and getting medical treatment. But his incredible story doesn't end there. 

Four years of rehabilitation and preparation later, Chocolate is a healthy adult, ready to be released back into the Sumatran forest! He is confident and shining in the dawn sunshine as he claims his freedom. 

Chocolate's Release Day!
Photo credit: The Orangutan Project

Paul Hilton's words of hope as he describes that day:

"Too often, we as humans write off environmental issues that seem unfixable. But, watching the dawn scene play out as Chocolate swings through the trees, it's hard not to feel that there is still hope for the orang-utans of Sumatra and the Leuser ecosystem. All they really need is our commitment." [emphasis mine]

There are a few actions you can take to help the orangutans and their rain forest habitat. Can you commit to one or two right now?

1. Sign the petition demanding that PepsiCo stop using deforestation palm oil. They stubbornly refuse to pledge to use sustainable palm oil in their snack products.

2. Read the Paul Hilton's story here, and then donate to support Wildlife Asia's work to protect orangutans here.

3. Download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's Sustainable Palm Oil App to your phone here.

4. Support the rescue and rehab of more baby orangutans by adopting an orphan at The Orangutan Project.  Gokong here is one of the available orphans to adopt.

Photo Credit: The Orangutan Project

5. Watch this beautiful video, then like Rainforest Action Network on Facebook.


  1. all the best for chocolate...and for all animals who have to live in fears because of dealers, hunters and people who damage their natural habitat...

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment Mark and Easy.

  2. Chocolate is a sweet name for that beautiful boy!!
    Hugs Madi your bfff

  3. Ugh, that's horrible to read about how they capture them. Disgusting that people want wild animals for pets as some sort of stupid status symbol. Thanks for the post! I signed the petition and downloaded the app! (Would it be rude of me to offer a suggestion.... when you have a link out to another site on blogger, there's a little box you can check to "open link in a new window" - makes it easier for the reader to come back and visit the other links and whatnot without ending up navigating away from the page unintentionally. I think once you check it, it's the default option afterwards.)

    1. Completely share your feelings Jackie. Thank you for the great suggestion about the links! I never even thought about that. I'll definitely make sure the box is checked from now on. Rude? Absolutely not, it's great that you're willing to share to help me do a better job.

    2. Oh good - I'm glad you didn't think that was rude. I know "unsolicited advice" isn't always welcome. :) But, yeah, just trying to be helpful! It helps keep folks on your blog where you want them. :)

  4. thanks for the info on the app. i hadn't heard of that one. i have also shared it with my daughters.
    i'm glad chocolate's story had a happy ending but my heart breaks for all the others that aren't so lucky.
    wags, bailey unleashed

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the story with your daughters! Your comment made my whole day!

  5. What a beautiful animal. I'm so happy that he gets to go free.


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