Today I want to give a little shout out for a close friend of mine, who’s been doing something amazing.
My friend Aleesha recently spent eight days skating solo across the whole South coast of England, raising money for The Orangutan Project in Borneo.
Between the 14th and 23rd of September 2014 she in-line skated from Hastings to Plymouth, a distance of 310 miles, averaging roughly 40 miles per day. You can read about her adventure on her blog, Blading For Borneo, which she updated each night while staying with generous coach-surfing hosts.
All the money Aleesha has raised through voluntary donations will be given to The Orangutan Project, a conservation company based in Borneo which runs a wildlife centre, helps to conserve rainforest habitat, rehabilitates orangutans back into the wild, and runs eco-tourism and volunteering projects. It’s not just orangutans either: they also work hard to help other endangered species native to Borneo, such as the clouded leopard and sun bear. They’re committed to setting the bar when it comes to ethical volunteer-tourism, which they say is all too often geared around providing photo-opportunities for excitable Western tourists and less about making a positive difference to the area. They do all their work with the animals as the number-one priority, and all the Westerners involved are true volunteers, leaving any paid jobs for the local people.
Orangutans are endangered and the species is facing extinction due to wide-scale destruction of their habitat, largely for palm oil plantations or because of illegal logging and mining. There are estimated to be less than 54,000 wild orangutans in Borneo, and less than a mere 6,600 in Sumatra. These are the only two islands where wild orangutans still live. These great apes are beautiful , gentle and intelligent mammals which share 96.4% or their DNA with humans. They care for their babies until they are 7 or 8 years old, longer than any mammal except us. They really are amazing creatures, and I shudder at the thought of losing them forever.
Biodiversity loss, species extinction, is possibly the most tragic of all today’s environmental problems. Once a species is gone, it’s gone. It’s not something we can reverse. It’s not like a forest which can be replanted, or an oil spill that can be cleaned up. It’s forever.
I really admire Aleesha for getting up and doing something about this. It’s so easy to be too despondent, too busy, too lazy, or too apathetic to do much more than half-heartedly sign an online petition. But what we really need is for people to get up and do something. Although Aleesha has completed her skate now, you’re still very welcome to donate however much or little you can afford. She’s raised $1,312 so far, and all of it is going to The Orangutan Project. Next month she’s going to Borneo on her way home to her native Australia to deliver the funding. And what’s more, she’s planning to make a short film with footage from her skate plus her up-coming visit to Borneo. Check out her blog for updates on all this, and please share it (and the donating page!) with anyone you think would be interested and supportive.
We share this beautiful planet with our fellow creatures.
Our activities are destroying their homes and their very ability to exist.
This isn’t right. They have a right to life on this planet too.
Let’s do what we can to allow them that right.
The right to life.