International Orangutan Day

Willie and special friends Orangutans
Willie Smits

Willie and his most special friends!

For exactly 30 years orangutans have been my most special friends. As a former ‘special’ child, animals always were my closest friends. I could speak about the role of orangutans in preserving biodiversity as gardeners of the rain forest. I give lots of other reasons why their forest should not be destroyed or list the reasons for the problems they are facing are as well as what we might do to help them. However, people can read about that on so many websites and in articles already.

For me personally what counts most is my deep connection with what I can’t call anything else but their souls. They understand so much more than people realize. And their suffering is as real as that of so many human victims of tragedy. The ability of those orphans in our care to forgive us humans and trust us again after the trauma of their mother’s murder at our hands is hard to imagine. And the friendship, the empathy, yes the love they can have for each other and for some of us humans is not different from us either.

I have seen orangutan mothers carrying their still born baby for days and their eyes showing their pain, crying without tears. I have received pieces of art they were made especially for me, to show me in human ways their friendship after years of not meeting. I was trusted to hold their new born baby out there in the jungle, not wanting it, but having them pushed in my arms to hold by the mothers. I saw how a group of orangutans spotted a small down syndrome boy and how all came down from their tree and looked the boy in his eyes and hugged him. His parents crying with joy witnessing this. Once you experience such things they stay forever in your hearts and that becomes the best reason to make Orangutan Day a special day because to tell you the truth I often think they might be the better humans…

So yes, please give them some extra thought today and think of how we can all together make this world a better place for us and them.

Willie Smits, August 19th, 2019