Having just gotten back from the Galapagos and the Amazon, I was already planning my next trip. Whenever I think of my travel plans, I don’t think “where do I want to go?” but rather, “What do I want to do?”
Well, this time I want to learn about the Orangutans. While researching about this, I came across a wonderful man by the name of Willie Smits. Perhaps you’ve heard of him or seen him at one of his TED talks?
Here’s what TED has to say about him:
Willie Smits works at the complicated intersection of humankind, the animal world and our green planet. In his early work as a forester in Indonesia, he came to a deep understanding of that triple relationship, as he watched the growing population of Sulawesi move into (or burn for fuel) forests that are home to the orangutan. These intelligent animals were being killed for food, traded as pets or simply failing to thrive as their forest home degraded.
Smits believes that to rebuild orangutan populations, we must first rebuild their forest habitat — which means helping local people find options other than the short-term fix of harvesting forests to survive. His Masarang Foundation raises money and awareness to restore habitat forests around the world — and to empower local people. In 2007, Masarang opened a palm-sugar factory that uses thermal energy to turn sugar palms (fast-growing trees that thrive in degraded soils) into sugar and even ethanol, returning cash and power to the community and, with luck, starting the cycle toward a better future for people, trees and orangs.
If you get a chance, check out his TED talk on restoring a rainforest. Willie’s homepage is the Masarang Foundation and his non-profit is called Orangutan Outreach. You can also follow him on Twitter @redapes.