Europe

Zoo offers red heads and orangutans free entry

Orangutan youngster reaching out
Image caption Humans, orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas are all part of the same evolutionary family

It's either a politically incorrect misstep or a deviously successful public relations ploy.

The twitter sphere is abuzz with the news that this weekend Dublin Zoo is offering free entry to "any type of red-haired child under 16 years of age".

The free entry is in honour of Orangutan Awareness Week and is part of a range of activities intended to educate people about the threats to the survival of the great apes.

To keep things fair, non-red haired children who dress up as orangutans will also be allowed free entry.

Reactions on the internet's favourite 140 character echo chamber, Twitter, ranged from incredulity to light-hearted praise.

Twitterer Aiden Kenny found the story hard to swallow.

"I'm sorry, but are Dublin Zoo really giving free entry to all redheads for Orangutan Week? Seriously? Seriously?" he wrote.

Meanwhile, Aurora111 praised the idea: "Congrats to Dublin zoo on their great initiative for orangutan awareness."

The issue of prejudice against red-haired people or "gingerism" is becoming more and more prominent.

10 years

Just last month Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman had to apologise for branding Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander a "ginger rodent".

The BBC was accused of gingerism last Christmas because some viewers misinterpreted a joke in a Doctor Who episode.

While the linking of red-haired people with orangutans may be somewhat controversial, the move has definitely attracted attention.

And all of us, ginger, blonde and brunette are, along with chimpanzees and gorillas, part of the same evolutionary family as orangutans.

The serious side of the initiative is that orangutans, which live in only small parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, are facing imminent extinction.

Much of the very particular habitat that the animals need to survive has been destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is used extensively in everything from biscuits to shampoo to biodiesel.

A spokesperson for Dublin Zoo said: "It's hard to imagine, but orangutans may have less than 10 years left in the wild before they are extinct. They will be the first great ape to go extinct."

"Orangutans share 97% of our DNA and, as one of our closest evolutionary cousins, it is our responsibility to protect these intelligent gentle apes."

Zoo keepers will be available at the orangutan habitat on Saturday and Sunday to answer any questions visitors have about orangutans.

Other activities such as face-painting, quizzes, and arts and crafts workshops will also take place over the weekend.

The zoo said orangutan fancy dress can include anything from an orangutan suit, a red-haired wig or red or orange items of clothing such as jumpers, trousers or coats.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites