Summary We all recognise these highly intelligent and impressiveanimals orangutans. But very few people know anything about how they live and their habits. Around6,000 of these animals die every year; they are among the world s most endangered species! This book reveals the plain truth, and the tragedy ofwhat is happening in the jungles of Borneo and Sumatrabecomes apparent to all. The breathtaking and movingphotographs cannot fail to trigger a strong emotional reaction on the part of the reader.
So why am I reviewing a book about orangutans in a permaculture forum?
Simply because the story in this book is one of the most inspiring I've ever heard, and the reason why Willie Smits is my personal hero.
Orangutans are among our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. They share 97% of their genes with us, they are highly intelligent, thoughtful and inventive. They have a culture and aesthetic sense, and they resemble us in facial expression, gesture and many other ways. The red apes, which live only in Borneo and Sumatra, are far more "human" than human beings, and thus probably too good for this world. They are strong as oxen, but do not defend themselves against poachers or the loggers of the palm oil corporations - and are mercilessly slaughtered. This is an unusual portrait of the being we know as the orangutan that goes far beyond mere zoology. Based on the personal experience of Dr Willie Smits, probably the leading world authority on orangutans, it uncovers the reasons behind the murder of our shaggy relatives - sparing no feelings and providing good evidence. And shows too that all hope is not dead.
This book is a work of art. There are hundreds of stunning photographs and text that tells a compelling, heart-breaking story of forest destruction and the plight of the orangutans. As you read, you will be drawn into their world and learn about their ways, their natural history, how they live as part of the forest, and how man has treated them. And you will be drawn into the way that Willie Smits began to understand their problems and how they are tied to the problems of the forest and of all the creatures that live in it, including the humans. And you will learn how he pulled all the pieces together to build a solution, not just for the orangutans, but for the forest, the forest creatures, humans, and humanity.
The final chapter is what makes this book so unique. After 250 pages of classic wild-life book, this chapter shows what not only needed to be done, but what *was* done. A shining example of actually pulling everything together and making a difference. I don't know if Willie had heard of permaculture at the time, but what he did was classic permaculture design, applying everything on a massive scale and creating a system to restore the forest, repair the climate, create a productive and economic landscape for the people, and allow the wildlife to return and live sustainably, in harmony with the people. I'm not going to give any more spoilers, just get a copy of the book.
Buy it for the photographs, read it for your enjoyment, learn from it for your soul. And then apply what you learn, acting on it for the sake of us all.
Willie, if you're reading this. You are a total inspiration to us all. Thankyou!