Langley’s Nikko Konyk returned from a trip to the jungle in 2013 knowing she wanted to help its endangered residents – the orangutan.
She returned to the jungles in late 2014 where she met Leif Cocks, the founder of the Orangutan Project.
By June 2015, Konyk had started a local chapter of the organization created to help save the apes.
She has travelled to orangutan areas in Sumatra and Borneo, describing them as “magical” and the animals as having a dramatic impact on her.
“We do share 97 per cent of the same DNA with orangutans. They are precious sentient beings that are also very smart They are slow to reproduce so they cannot adapt fast enough to their changing habitat. I have always loved primates and especially Orangutans. The first orangutan I saw in the wild was the most magical moment for me and changed who I was and how I see and interact with the world. At that point I knew that I could not come home a do nothing.”
She asked Cocks what she could do to help and was asked to start a chapter in her home community.
“Of course, knowing nothing about non profits and how difficult they are to set up I happily agreed to set up a chapter in Canada.”
One way she’s helping raise awareness about orangutans is by hosting the founder.
Next Monday humanity’s closest animal relative, the orangutan, is the subject of a public presentation by Cocks, starting at 7 p.m. in St. Andrew’s United Church, 9025 Glover Rd. Tickets are $15 and available orangutans.ca.
He has spent almost 30 years studying and working with the endangered orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra. He shares his experiences in his second book, Orangutans, My Cousins, My Friends.
Cocks founded the Orangutan Project in 1998 over concerns about the dwindling numbers and habitat loss.
The organization worked not only to rescue, rehabilitate and protect orangutans, but it has also funded reforestation, education, research and community partnerships.
Konyk supports the group’s work because saving the orangutans has vast implications.
“It is so important to save orangutans because they live in the most diverse ecosystems in the world,” she said. “It is the only place where orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos live together and if we focus on the orangutans it will save the other animals as well. The amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere when the jungle is clear cut and burned is huge. By saving the ecosystem we make a huge impact on slowing climate change as well as our orange cousins, the orangutans, will keep their home.”
She’s hoping more local people will come to care about these issues.
“Local people should care about our planet as a whole not just as Canada. We are all connected and the forests keep getting destroyed,” Konyk added.
Much of the habitat destruction comes down to a cheap source for palm oil and rubber.
“Palm oil masquerades under 200 different names,” she noted. “Palm oil is cheap, odourless, and easy to work with therefore the demand is high. We should care about all of the animals that are endangered. We need a balance in our world.”