Hi I’m Therese. I went to Indonesian Borneo for a holiday in 2010 and met my first orangutan. Looking into the soulful eyes of a young orangutan was like being shocked with a lightning bolt. It was life-changing. Orangutans are highly intelligent – they play, laugh and even cry. Seeing the endless deforestation as we flew over Borneo, knowing the orangutan’s forest would soon not be big enough to sustain a viable population, was heartbreaking. So I went back to uni to learn about how to help save orangutans. I also started to volunteer with The Orangutan Project. And more recently, I established the Wildlife Guardian Fund, which raises money specifically for the people who live near orangutans and other wildlife. It helps those people with their education, training and employment costs so they can fight to save orangutans and the other amazing wildlife (like elephants, rhinos, bears and tigers) which share the orangutan’s forest home.
There are many women in Indonesia who would like to study veterinary science, environmental science and conservation to become local guardians for orangutans and the forests, but they cannot afford the tuition fees to study in these male dominated areas.
Community-led conservation is a critical part of the solution that is often overlooked. Forests and wildlife cannot be protected without involving and empowering the people who live there. And we know saving forests is the most cost effective way to fight climate change.
“People who live close to the natural world don’t have romantic ideas about it, but they know about its welfare and care about its welfare, and will look after it given the chance.” – Sir David Attenborough.
Orangutans are critically endangered and are facing extinction due to an alarming rate of deforestation, often for palm oil plantations. Orangutans are only found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. They are closely related to humans with 97% of DNA in common. There are so many reasons to save such an intelligent being, who is a vital part of the rainforest ecosystem; and well let’s face it, they are super gorgeous and the world would be a poorer place if they were lost forever.
We are providing women with scholarships to cover their tuition fees for up to five years of study (it only costs AUD$500 a year for one person to study). This will advance gender equality by helping women to get a job, access a better income and to contribute to decision-making about their local environment.
Empowering women to undertake studies in biology, environmental and veterinary science will establish a group of community leaders who are knowledgeable and sympathetic to the conservation of orangutans and their forest habitat. In return, while studying, the women promote sustainable environmental practices to students in villages, building much needed awareness in the forest communities.
Wildlife Conservation International Ltd (the umbrella organisation of The Orangutan Project, Wildlife Guardian Fund and other wildlife charities) has been funding scholarships for several years now and aims to fund up to 81 students in 2019. The Wildlife Guardian Fund has committed to help them out by raising $5,000 to provide ten women each with a $500 tuition scholarship to study in 2019. (Hard to believe only $500 will give a disadvantaged woman an opportunity to study at a college or university for one year!).
We want to raise $5,000 to empower disadvantaged women through education. Can you help us out? It would be very exciting to have a large group of locally engaged educated women fighting for orangutan conservation.
You can make your tax deductible donation as part of our crowdfunding campaign or to set up your own fundraising activity to help the cause.
Check out our very short video – Women saving orangutans need our help.