There are only 15,000 wild orangutans left living in the forest. At the rate that they are being killed, captured, and with the destructive deforestation continuing, they will be extinct within the next 15 years.
The word orangutan means ‘people of the forest’. This story seeks to illustrate the
humanity of these ‘people’ and the daily struggle of those trying to save them.
I spent three months on the island of Borneo in Indonesia, I saw huge, overcrowded cages full of young, orphaned orangutans. Traumatized babies reached out to any human who would touch or hold them. I spent time with young Indonesian babysitters, who are hired to spend their days as orangutan mother-substitutes. I witnessed the patience and love in caring for sick orangutans.
With the help of two very special people in my story, some orangutans are being rehabilitated and released onto Orangutan island, which is separated from the mainland so as not to mix those who have been in touch with humans and the wild orangutans.
But this is not a success story. " All this looks like a wonderful thing," says Willie Smits, one of the two heros in my story. " The fact that we do have orangutan rehabilitation means that we have failed to do what is important to their ultimate survival, and that is to protect the wild orangutan in its native habitat".