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Raising awareness for Orangutans

A zoo has been left red-faced after it planned to raise awareness for the plight of orangutans by offering free entry – to ginger children. Dublin Zoo will offer all red-haired children under 16 and anyone dressed as an orangutan free entry to the zoo this weekend to highlight the plight of the great ape. But the publicity stunt has been criticised for indirectly comparing red-haired people to primates and giving school bullies ammunition for playground taunts…

Jessica Bateman, a 25-year-old red head, said: “Red-headed children often have terrible experiences at school where they are singled out and picked on for being ‘different’. The destruction of self-esteem this causes is massively underestimated and can affect people for their whole lives.

“I understand they are trying to raise awareness for an important issue but singling out red heads isn’t the right way to do it.” But Ciarán McMahon, the primate keeper at the zoo, defended the Orangutan Awareness Weekend. She said: “The real point is raising awareness about these endangered animals that may be extinct in 10 years.”

Orangutans – which are among the cleverest primates – are heading towards extinction as a result of habitat loss, palm oil plantations and illegal pet trade. The primate, which shares 97 per cent DNA with humans, could be the first Great Ape to be extinct.