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There was a time when 30-year-old Kumie considered orangutans to be her enemy. Some 40,000 of them live in Borneo’s rich, ancient jungles, but many locals consider them aggressive pests who bite if approached, damage crops and need to be controlled. So it was with some trepidation that in 2003 Kumie (many Borneans do not use surnames) took a job caring for orphaned baby orangutans. “I only heard stories about them from my parents,” she says, while tenderly bottle-feeding an infant ape. “It turns out that they are very cute and behave exactly like infant humans.”
Kumie is one of 47 “babysitters” at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in central Borneo, which is home to more than 650 apes. These women, recruited from villages where secure jobs are rare, act as substitute parents to the young animals, looking after them almost as they would their own children, until the orangutans can graduate to the project’s protected forests. They also help build bonds between the creatures and humans who threaten their existence.
Nyaru Menteng was set up in 1999 by Danish conservationist Lone Dröscher-Nielsen – with the backing of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). She was desperate to preserve a species that shares 97% of its DNA with humans, and was once found across South-East Asia but is now restricted to Borneo and Sumatra, where its habitat is still being cleared for logging and oil palm plantations.
Homeless, hungry apes wandering near villages are shot, hacked to death, used as bushmeat or even set on fire. For every orangutan rescued, it’s estimated that two to three lose their lives due to habitat clearance. Surviving infants, who are often left clinging to their dead mothers, are frequently sold into the pet trade where as few as one in 15 survive being shipped to neighbouring countries in tiny crates.
For more information on orangutans, and how you can help, please visit redapes.org
|Harley Bituin on 13 June 2012 ,20:51 |
It's very beautiful. A very touching work. It's only now while reading this that I've felt great affection to orangutans.
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