Orangutan Foundation International Australia

In April, Richard and I had the privilege of visiting the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) Care Centre and Camp Leakey in Borneo. Located in the Tanjung Puting National Park in Central Borneo, Camp Leakey was established in 1971 by Dr. Biruté Galdikas and Rod Brindamour. It was named after the legendary paleo-anthropologist, Louis Leakey, who was both mentor and an inspiration to Dr. Galdikas. Originally consisting of just two huts, Camp Leakey is now an assemblage of permanent wooden structures designed to provide a base for scientists, staff, students and park rangers.

Over the years, Camp Leakey has supported the research efforts of dozens of scientists and students including undergraduate and graduate students from Indonesia and North America. Projects have ranged from studies of orangutan sign language abilities and cognition and river system ecology. Primarily, however, Camp Leakey was established to save the orangutans from being kept as pets or killed by poachers in palm oil plantations.

It was wonderful to see the orangutans in their natural environment and the babies at the care centre. A baby orangutan needs to stay with its mother for a minimum of 8 years – the mother teaches the infant all of its life skills – climbing trees, how to build a nest daily and foraging for food. Sadly because of poaching and tree logging in Borneo many baby orang-utans orphaned.

These babies are rescued by Dr Gladikus and her amazing team of vets and nurses and carers at OFI. They are cared for by ‘human mothers’ for eight years. The ‘mothers’ teach them valuable skills for survival in the wild.

They are then released into a safe sanctuary, land purchased by Dr Gladikus through the wonderful work of OFI supporters. The orangutans live the remainder of their life in these jungle safe zones protected from poachers and logging.

I was privileged to spend a day at the famous Camp Leakey and a day at the care centre with the baby orangutans. It gives me great pleasure knowing our support will help these beautiful orangutans live a natural wonderful life in the jungle.

You can help these orangutans EVERY DAY by not buying products containing palm oil or palm oil derivatives. The way in which palm oil is farmed and manufactured leads to the destruction of the orangutans’ rainforest habitat. Because this mono culture is at odds with existing Malaysian and Indonesian rainforest ecosystems, it is also destroying the biodiversity of the region. The establishment of palm oil plantations on top of existing peat soils, which were until recently covered by peat swamp forests, leads to the release of massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Increasing demand for palm oil means virgin rainforests are being decimated at a staggering rate, leaving orangutans nowhere to live. Displaced, confused and without a source of food the orangutans inevitably wander into the plantations. They are often killed by plantation workers who see them as pests.

To find out more about OFI please visit http://orangutanfoundation.org.au/.