Gail and I have visited forests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra several times to observe orangutans and their habitat. The continued existence of orangutans and the forests are in doubt.
We have also visited Uganda and Rwanda to observe Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the wild. These too are threatened. Our observations have led us to the conclusion that orangutans are our closest cousins. Not just in terms of DNA but also in the way they think and behave.
Orangutans are, in our minds, a test of our humanity. Will we wipe out our closest cousins in order to satisfy our most selfish desires?
For Gail, most heartfelt are the animals themselves. She sees wisdom in their eyes and has experienced social connections with them. For Charlie, the forests are his passion – without them, many animals would not be able to survive. Indeed, humans may not be able to survive without the forests. Forests provide homes for insects needed for pollination of our crops; they contain medicines which are yet to be discovered, and they are our only proven technology for absorbing the carbon dioxide emissions our industrial lifestyles cause.
Our visits to forests, as tourists, has sent a message to governments and human inhabitants that the forests and their creatures are valued in both moral and monetary dimensions. We have also donated to organisations which protect and improve habitats and care for creatures such as orangutans. But now we wish to do more.
We are making a visit to Sumatra, in May, to go into the forest with the rangers and researchers of The Orangutan Project to observe and participate in their activities. The Orangutan Project is a not-for-profit organisation which has been working in the field for many years and we will be travelling with its founder and chief, Leif Cocks.
We have paid our own fares and accommodation and we are raising a further $5,000 to donate to the works of The Orangutan Project.
If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, please do so at www.justgiving.com/Gail-Thomson6.
Donations are tax deductible and information about The Orangutan Project is available at this page.
Fundraising closes on 28 April.