Orangutans' foster mother encourages her brood to go wild
By Paul Eccleston Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 19/05/2008
Lone Dröscher-Nielsen gave up her career with Scandinavian Airlines and set up the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in 1999 when she became aware of how serious a threat the great apes were facing.
Since then it has become the largest primate rescue project in the world, caring for almost 600 animals.
The youngsters of Orangutan Island live in a community where they have to learn to deal with social issues. Now she has established an island sanctuary where orphaned baby orangutans driven from their rainforest homelands of Borneo and Sumatra by illegal logging are being taught the skills they will need to survive in the wild as adults.
The progress of the 35 young apes on the 100-acre protected island at the Nyaru Menteng Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre features in a television series Orangutan Island which begins next week.
Unlike wild orangutans, who live mostly solitary lives, the youngsters of Orangutan Island live in a community where they have to learn to deal with social issues such as friendship, bullying and power struggles.
The series chronicles their attempts to learn to live independently without the human support systems they have come to rely on. The hope is that they will learn survival techniques so they can be returned to their natural habitat.
Miss Dröscher-Nielsen said of the experiment: "As a whole the orangutans have done very well, fending for themselves on the island. There have been a few who have not exactly done great but they have survived and will continue to improve."
• Orangutan Island begins on Animal Planet on Monday, May 26, at 9pm.