Orangutan’s are among the most intelligent primates. Just as humans, they create beds and use tools, have distinct cultures within their populations (which are endangered) and even blow raspberries. They are some of the most kind looking primates, their eyes are so soulful. I fell in love with them when I met George, my favorite Orangutan, at a zoo.
We sat face to face for a long time, just looking at each other. He smiled. I fell in love.
Orangutan Diaries was a series on BBC that aired in 2007 and 2009. It follows the lives of the Bornean Orangutans at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation or BOS. Located deep in the Borneo rainforest there is a team of vets and caregivers that have the overwhelming task of rescuing these amazing animals and nursing them back to health. There are currently over 600 orangutans being cared for day in and day out, some holding on simply by the instinct of survival after having lived such traumatic lives. The DVD is presented by Steve Leonard and Michaela Strachan who share with us the story of the orangutan orphanage.
Orangutan Diaries made me both very sad and all at once thankful that there were people out there dedicated to helping them. The team introduces the newest orangutans into the orphanage and some that have been there for quite a long time. You watch them travel miles and miles just to save a little one held illegally in a tiny crate, that was probably the hardest part for me. Orangutans are so… human-like that it is almost like seeing a baby held captive. Through it all though, you have a deep sense of hope. Hope because there are good people out there striving to make a difference and ensuring the livelihood of the Borneo Orangutans.
Some of the visuals are hard to watch because they are so honest in the telling and show when they rescue the animals, which always isn’t in the best condition. When Mama Abut and her baby are found they are almost wasted away from starvation, thankfully they later show that they are doing much better and happy. Just so that you know that there are some striking video pieces of the endangered animals, taped with kindness though and only to show the seriousness of their cause – which I respected.
- Episode One – After months of planning, a handful of rescued orangutans are flying to freedom. On board are Mama Abut and her baby, found starving in an oil palm plantation but nursed back to health at the Centre, which is home to 600 rescued orangutans – babies in the nursery needing 24-hour care, orphans in Forest School learning the skills they will need in the wild, and older ones almost ready for release. After a terrifying fall at the Centre, Sumanto fights for his life, while deep in the jungle the rescue team has to think fast when a powerful male decides he would rather not be rescued.
- Episode Two – Can anyone help self-harming Roothi, an orangutan with real issues? After his terrifying fall Sumanto’s health takes a turn for the worse, and the rescue team race to save several orangutans at risk – one battles through miles of muddy roads hoping to save a young orangutan held illegally in a tiny crate, another searches for an orangutan seen dangerously close to a village school.
- Episode Three – Meet Noddy, top of the class at nursery but nervous about his first day at school. Massive male Hercules, the hairiest orangutan you will ever meet, heads off for his annual leave on a river island. The confiscation team sets off on their most demanding rescue yet, and one of the technicians risks his life in a death-defying climb to get Bonny back where she belongs.
- Episode Four – Some of the youngest are in danger as malaria hits the clinic. Fugitive Bento has escaped from the islands but refuses to come quietly. The confiscation team confronts the armed captor of two baby orangutans, and Lone (the Centre’s director) finally finds somewhere in the heart of Borneo where more rescued orangutans can be released.
- Episode Five – After months of preparation the team embarks on one of the biggest releases they have ever attempted. Using boats, planes and helicopters, they will try to get Mama Pika, her baby and 23 other orangutans deep into the heart of Borneo. At the Centre, we meet irresistible orphans Peanut and Pickle, David the GP rushes to an emergency in Forest School, Lone welcomes the youngest and most vulnerable addition to the Centre, and Angelie (missing from Forest School for over two months) walks straight through the front gate. As the series draws to a close we catch up with some of the orangutans and people who have made time at the Centre such a rich experience, and we reflect on the world of the Centre and the long-term fate of some of our closest animal relatives.
I hope you take a moment to check out this DVD. You can purchase Orangutan Diaries: Saving Our Closest Relatives for $29.99 on PBS.
I received a copy of the DVD to facilitate my review. Opinions are my own and/or my families and are not influenced by any form of compensation.