After witnessing the devastation suffered by orangutans, South Langley resident Nikko Konyk had to take action.
“I couldn’t come home and do nothing,” Konyk commented.
Konyk, who has had a life-long fascination with primates, made her decision following two trips to Borneo and Sumatra, where orangutans are losing habitat because of deforestation due to logging, forest fires, and timber clearing for palm oil plantations, as well as human settlements.
It’s estimated that their numbers have fallen from 230,000 in both regions, to less than half – 104,700 in Borneo, and 7,500 in Sumatra.
They are considered a critically endangered species.
“It’s pretty dire,” is how Konyk described the situation.
“I would say if it’s not turned around, the orangutan will be extinct,” Konyk told the Langley Advance Times.
It was during her second visit that Koynk met Leif Cocks, a primatologist with more than 30 years experience working with orangutans.
Cocks is founder of the Orangutan Project, part of Wildlife Conservation International (WCI), a registered charity with a stated goal of ensuring endangered wild orangutan species will be protected, and live in secure populations for generations to come.
An online summary reports the project has raised more than $22 million since it’s founding for orangutan conservation, “encompassing legally protecting rainforests; securing, restoring and patrolling rainforests; rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing ex-captive orangutans; and educating and empowering local communities and indigenous people.”
Shortly after her return from her trips, in June of 2015, Konyk launched the Canadian chapter of the Orangutan Project, also a registered charity.
In its most recent filing with Canada Revenue Canada, WCI Canada Foundation said it “aims to establish and run an orangutan protection Sumatra mobile team to investigate, document and expose the destruction of orangutan habitat and to undertake rescues of illegally held orangutans.”
On Sunday, July 17, Cocks will be in Langley to give a talk, “A Future We Can Believe In” at the United Churches of Langley at 21562 Old Yale Rd. at 3 p.m.
Orangutans are great apes, as opposed to monkeys, and are closely related to humans, having 97 per cent of DNA in common.
Cocks, known in some circles as the “orangutan whisperer” for teaching some to communicate with sign language, has described them as the “second most intelligent animal next to humans … self-aware, with feelings and compassion.”
To book a ticket, visit www.orangutans.ca/a-future-we-can-believe-in-langley.
Admission is $20.
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