18. August 2021

Willie Smits zum Welt-Orang-Utan-Tag

Oran­gutans: gardeners of the forest and sentient beings. I could produce a huge list of epithets refer­ring to all of their special abili­ties but 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.

The forests of Borneo 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 is what we will need for our future to find solu­tions for our needs. This can be through finding new food plants, new medi­cines, deve­lo­p­ment of tech­no­logy through biomi­micry, etc. Oran­gutans are not just part of that biodi­ver­sity, they can even teach us about plants and medi­cines and are respon­sible for the distri­bu­tion and enhanced germi­na­tion of many diffe­rent plant seeds from the rain­fo­rest. Their home is the lowland rain­fo­rest with the highest biodi­ver­sity of all, which is also the most converted ecosystem for human use. Guar­ding their exis­tence actually means guar­ding our own 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 special capa­bi­li­ties to even under­stand us, compli­cated humans. I have written (e.g. on oran­gutan day 2019) about their empathy and capa­bi­lity 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 had been living 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.

Willie Smits mit den "Denkern des Dschungels"
Willie Smits mit den “Denkern des Dschungels”

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 very hard time for all of us, but if you can then please think of our red haired cousins in need too 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


Hier geht es zu unserem Online-Event am Welt-Orang-Utan-Tag: “Meet our Cousins — Oran­gutan Conser­va­tion Around the Globe”

19. August 2021: 19:30 — 21:30 CET