A small population of homeless Sumatran orangutans has reportedly been panhandling near the headquarters of agribusiness giant Cargill on the outskirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It seems these distraught red apes have descended on the small, affluent town of Wayzata to protest what they say is the destruction of their rainforest habitat for palm oil by Cargill.
The first of the forlorn primates appeared last week just before dawn on a local park bench on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, holding a sign that read “Home Destroyed for Palm Oil. Anything Helps.” Within minutes of sitting down, an upset passerby, apparently a Cargill employee, jumped out of her SUV and assaulted the peaceful orangutan, removing her sign and leaving her alone in the cold autumn air.
A few days later another of the great apes appeared on a busy public square in Wayzata carrying a sign reading “Evicted by Cargill. Will work for habitat.” This animal was more warmly received and he sat peacefully for hours as hundreds of people commented and interacted with him amicably.
The latest sighting was early in the morning this past Monday when a bundled-up orangutan was spotted hitchhiking near the entrance to Cargill’s headquarters in the town of Minnetonka. After hundreds of Cargill employees drove slowly past the hitchhiking protestor as they arrived to work, a team of Cargill private security officers arrived on the scene. The security team interrogated the orangutan for several tense minutes before rudely pinching his side and then picking him up and loading him into the back of their patrol vehicle. His current whereabouts remain unknown.
While it is unclear exactly how these tropical animals ended up in the frigid Midwest, their appearance follows a high profile string of public advertisements by Rainforest Action Network, including billboards, full page print ads and an online campaign calling attention to the urgent crisis of extinction orangutans face due to the wholesale destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests for palm oil plantations.
Cargill is the largest importer of palm oil into the US and one can only guess these intelligent creatures came to Cargill’s doorstep in a last ditch effort to save their kind before it is forever too late.
Please be on alert—while orangutans pose no threat to humans, these animals are clearly desperate for their survival and unless Cargill acts quickly to make sure it stops buying palm oil that destroys their precious habitat, there is no telling what they might do next.