World OrangUtan Day 2021


Orangutans: gardeners of the forest and sentient beings

Orangutans, I could produce an enormous list of epithets referring to all of their unique abilities. For me, those two designations are all we need to realize that we have to step up and take action to save orangutans and their habitat.

Kalimantan and Sumatra

The forests of Kalimantan and Sumatra are treasure houses of biodiversity. Percentages or comparisons to other countries make no sense. Biodiversity is what shaped the world we live in today and will need for our future to find solutions for our needs. These can be through finding new food plants, new medicines, technology development through biomimicry, etc. Orangutans are not just part of that biodiversity; they can even teach us about plants and medicines and are responsible for distributing and enhancing the germination of many different plant seeds from the rainforest. Their home is the lowland rainforest with the highest biodiversity, which is also the most converted ecosystem for human use. Guarding their existence actually means protecting our future. Long term interests should prevail over short-term, unsustainable profit.

I have spoken about orangutans as my friends on many occasions and about their exceptional capabilities to understand us, complicated humans. I have written (e.g. on orangutan day 2019) about their empathy and ability to form loving relationships, sometimes covering many decades like the first orangutan I released,

Uce, here on the right with her baby boy Bintang

The photographer gave her several polaroid pictures of this meeting in the forest where she lived for many years. She kept coming back regularly to see them from our staff in the forest for more than a year to look at, hold them for a while, to then return to the tree canopy.

It is with great sadness that after more than three decades of trying to help them, they still need our help so much. The global pandemic caused by Covid-19 is not making things easier and with climate change-related natural disasters,

I appreciate that we are being asked for help by so many organizations. I realize that it is a tough time for all of us, but if you can, then please think of our red-haired cousins in need on this August 19th and help in some way if you possibly can.

Willie Smits, August 19, 2021

Founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Founder of the Sintang Orangutan Center Foundation