Awareness of the plight of endangered orangutans is being raised by their similarly orange-tinged human cousins: redheads.
Eleven redheaded Melburnians are the models for a 2015 calendar with a difference.
The calendar has been organised by Citra Jewson-Brown, a biologist who plans to use the money raised to fund six months volunteering with the Orangutan Health Project (OHP) in North Sumatra.
“I am hoping the calendar will help raise awareness of the serious trouble that orangutans are in,” she said.
“Current predictions state that orangutans will become extinct within the next decade if we continue with how we are going. That just breaks my heart.”
Worldwide, orangutan numbers are steadily dropping. In the last 20 years, more than 80 per cent of their habitat in Borneo and Sumatra has been lost due to deforestation, often to make room for palm oil plantations.
As a project assistant to the OHP, Jewson-Brown will focus on the Sumatran Orangutan, which has been classed as critically endangered with fewer than 7000 left in the wild.
“I feel that orangutan conservation could be an effective way to engage and educate people about environmental issues, and the power we have as consumers to make a difference,” Jewson-Brown said.
“Something as simple as choosing not to buy a product containing palm oil can make a significance difference.”
Jewson-Brown said she had always felt an affinity with the great apes, but it wasn’t until she was older she realised the term ‘ranga’ – a derogatory term for redheads – came from the word orangutan.
“Having never been teased for my red hair I was always proud to be associated with orangutans. I think as my affinity with orangutans has grown as my red hair has come to form a greater part of my identity,” she said.
A pozible campaign to fund the calendar reached well over the target of $5330, and Jewson-Brown said the response has been “simply wonderful and very inspiring”.
“Already, a student has said that because of this project she now notices redheads everywhere and can’t believe how beautiful they are,” she said.
“And to make it even better, every time she sees one of us, she thinks of orangutans and my project. That is great!”
Any excess profits made from the campaign will be donated to the Orangutan Health Project.