Bornean orangutan mother, Simona, with her adopted and natural babies in Kalimantan, Borneo.
One of the goals on my “life list” was to photograph an orangutan mother and child in the wild. However, it’s so rare to see them even though I’ve traveled many times to Borneo for wildlife photography over the years. So I decided to find out why.
I managed to get exclusive access into the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) – Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation and Reintroduction Center in Kalimantan, Borneo. There, I photographed some of the 600+ orangutan orphans who were separated from their mothers when they were young and learned about their lives. The dedicated team at BOSF rescues the young orangutan orphans from illegal pet trade rings and forest fires and gives them a second chance in life.
There are many times when I’m heartbroken as I photograph the orangutan orphans up close — knowing that my fellow humans have caused them to lose their forest home, their only kin and their freedom overnight.
But there’s one photo that really inspires me — the one I took of an orangutan orphan named Simona. She was reintroduced into a semi-wild island by BOSF Nyaru Menteng many years ago and has successfully given birth to her own baby and, at the same time, adopted another baby from an inexperienced orangutan mother and called it her own.
Simona’s maternal instinct shines through in this image as she not only protects her own baby but also the baby of a fellow orangutan to ensure the survival of the species, even though Simona is an orphan who lost her mother when she was just a baby herself.
It's true that photographs have the power to evoke empathy and bring about change. It does for me every day as a wildlife photographer, inspiring me to keep making small positive differences with every photo and story I share with the world, to help us all better understand and identify with the world around us.