E y e s   o n   t h e   F o r e s t 
J U N E   2 0 1 5 

eyes in the forest

Reflections of a Volunteer

by Kaitlyn Bock


Dr. Birutė Mary Galdikas with Communications Volunteer, Kaitlyn Bock











The mid-day sun hung heavy in the sky. Even the shade offered no respite, for the powerful equatorial heat can reach even the darkest corners of the forest. My sweat-soaked clothes clung tightly to my body, a daily discomfort I'd grown accustomed to over the last six months. Kneeling by a shallow creek, I stared with squinting eyes at the tangled canopy above me. Somewhere in that dense foliage were two juvenile orangutans surprisingly well-camouflaged against the brown and green web of vines and branches. Turning my head from left to right, I tried to dodge the beams of sunlight that penetrated the tree tops.


Top to bottom: Robert and  Satria enjoying the forest

Sunglasses, of course, were out of the question, as were hats, jewelry, water bottles, and any other dangly item that might catch the eye and

interest of a young orangutan. Instead I was without aid, craning my neck to spot two wily little red-heads. A cloud moved across the sun, and in that moment of reprieve I saw them! Like children exploring the playground, Robert and Satria swung quietly between the arching tree limbs within the OFI (Orangutan Foundation International) Enrichment forest. Though we had walked to this spot together, I knew the orangutans had already forgotten my presence. Slowly, but without any caution, they moved through teetering tree tops fearlessly. From below, I stood still, mesmerized by their festivity. 

These are the wild-born ex-captive orphan orangutans of OFI's Care Center and Quarantine (established many years ago bDr. Biruté Mary Galdikas). They are just two of hundreds of rescued orphans whose mothers had been 


killed before their offspring's eyes. Many have been pets, ripped from their mother's chest and placed in cages and cardboard boxes. Some had been clothed in baby outfits. They are refugees in a world of environmental extermination. Their homes are vanishing at the fastest rate of deforestation in the world. And yet, every day I spent working as a long-term volunteer at the Orangutan Care Center, I was repeatedly surprised at their capacity for joy. I was continuously amazed at their ability to persevere even through the worst traumas. They had seen abuse and experienced loss I couldn't even begin to imagine, but when they swung between the trees on their forest releases, they were happy.


That particular day, as I stood watching Robert and Satria explore the forest, was actually my last day as the Communications Volunteer at the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine. After almost seven months in Indonesia, I could hardly believe I was packing my bags for the long journey home...

...As much as I want to, I can't begin to adequately condense my six month volunteer tenure into a brief, digestible blog. I am tongue-tied when I try to retell all the little moments I had the privilege of sharing with so many orangutans. I don't yet know how to explain the imprint their friendships have made on my soul. 


A young orangutan from OFI's Care Center gazes into the camera


What I can tell you is this:

As humans, we often search the stars and the heavens wondering if there might be other beings somewhere in the universe that are like us. In fact, there are. Better yet? They're already here, on this planet. Orangutans are the other human life forms we've been searching for. They are dynamic individuals. They make decisions, change their minds, like some things and dislike other things, grow and learn as they get older. Sometimes they squabble and bicker. They also comfort each other. Adults will groom their friends; the young ones will hold each other and often fall asleep in a locked embrace. They are peaceable beings, overwhelmingly gentle and quiet.


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In this Issue


Feature Story: Reflections of a Volunteer


Orangutan of the Month: Getting to know ESRI


Saving Rosemary and ESRI: Returning to the Light!



Orangutan of the Month
There's just a few spots left on this year's Eco Tours!

This once-in-a-life-time adventure to Indonesian Borneo will give you an opportunity to see orangutans in their natural environment. 

  • Nov 2, 2015 
  • Nov 10, 2015

(Dates for 2016 TBA.)

Saving Rosemary and ESRI:

Returning to the Light! 

by Murray Sharp

Dr. Prima checking vital signs while Dr. Venter observes


I had the pleasure of participating in Orangutan Foundation International's Eco tour in July 2010 together with eleven others from the US and UK, organised by Irene Spencer and led by Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas. During our tour of the Orangutan Care Center we were introduced to an orangutan called Rosemary and her daughter Rodnee, who were in an enclosure together. Unlike the majority of young orphaned orangutans in the Care Center Rosemary was a mature female. Unfortunately, Rosemary had been removed from the wild as she was blind in both eyes (from cataracts). Rodnee, who was born in the wild, was kept with her mother, as young orangutans may stay with their mothers until they are at least 7 or 8 years old.

Whilst standing next to Rosemary's enclosure, Dr Galdikas told us about her efforts to help Rosemary. This had included contacting a high profile veterinarian from Beverly Hills as well as a Phaco machine manufacturer who had conditionally offered to donate a machine (necessary for cataract operations). Both these attempts for help were not successful. The Beverly Hills doctor wanted first class airline tickets to Borneo for himself and his spouse and also imposed other onerous conditions while the machine manufacturer wanted placement for the machine in a prime time television show. 

I was very moved by Rosemary's predicament and was concerned that her medical condition would prevent her and Rodnee from ever being released back into the forest...

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Orangutans need you!

Thank you very much for being a reader of OFI's Eyes on the Forest!

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