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Posted by Tara Henson on 08/09/2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                     August 10, 2012


Tara Henson          (405) 425-0219 O / (405) 919-9038 C / [email protected]

Candice Rennels   (405) 425-0298 O / (405) 412-6172 C / [email protected]




In keeping with its mission to boost conservation programs that benefit animals and plants both locally and around the world, the Oklahoma City Zoo has invited foremost authority, Dr. Ian Singleton, director of conservation at PanEco Foundation, to address the impending plight of orangutans in Sumatra, Indonesia. These imperiled animals and their habitats are being eliminated by palm oil companies harvesting palm trees dangerously and illegally. The small, lush island of Sumatra is known as the last place on earth nurturing the four, iconic mega-species: tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans. The presentation is open and free to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, Thursday, August 16, at 7 p.m. in the Zoo’s 300-seat Education Auditorium, located at 2000 Remington Place (east end of the parking lot.)

The Zoo and PanEco, together with Dr. Singleton managing the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP), are working to save the land from wildlife poachers, illegal wildlife trade, pet capture, illegal timber harvest, and thousands of acres of habitat deforestation while companies and others produce highly profitable palm oil.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Singleton to Oklahoma and to hear about the challenges and successes regarding the many fascinating species and communities in Sumatra,” says Alan Varsik, Zoo deputy director.  “Ultimately, we are looking for opportunities to raise awareness about ways that we can all contribute to helping these animals and others through our everyday actions here at home.”

Last year, through the Zoo’s Conservation Action Now (CAN) program, an OKC Zoo team traveled to Sumatra to experience and document the Zoo’s investment in the joint conservation initiatives of Sumatra. The group worked directly with Dr. Singleton and his team.  

“He’s a very engaging and passionate researcher.” says Tara Henson, Zoo marketing director. “I was one of four Zoo staff members fortunate enough to see first-hand the impact our Zoo is having in the field and experience the culture, amazing people and animals of Sumatra.”

Funding from the Zoo is helping with educational activities directly related to the environment, promoting community awareness, conservation programs for endangered species and community development; also, rehabilitation efforts for orphaned or injured orangutans, veterinarian field training, humanitarian relief and more.

“Along with our PanEco partnership, our other conservation action initiatives are key to fulfilling our overall vision of the Zoo,” says Varsik. “Helping connect people with wildlife in wild places here locally and worldwide, and how our choices and actions can make a difference is paramount.”

Singleton was a zoo keeper in Europe before specializing in orangutans. Singleton’s doctorate study included orangutans’ ranging behavior in Indonesian peat swamp forests. On completion of his thesis, he joined PanEco to establish the SOCP. He continues to confiscate illegal pet orangutans and return them to a life in the wild, and conduct field research and monitor the remaining wild Sumatran orangutan population to protect their habitat.

Resources to learn more about the Zoo’s conservation efforts, palm oil issues and orangutans:

Join us in our efforts to help Sumatran orangutans! Oklahoma’s #1 attraction, the Zoo is a proud member of Oklahoma City’s Adventure District located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with buildings closing at 4:45 p.m. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages three-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Become a Zoo fan at or follow us on Twitter @okczoo. To learn about Zoo happenings call (405) 424-3344 or visit


Editor’s Note:  Photos of Dr. Singleton and OKC Zoo staff in Sumatra are available upon request. Please contact PR as noted above.

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