Regrow the Forest, Save the Red Apes

(c) Willie Smitts / TED.com : Leveled Borneo rainforest after slash and burn practices

The 2009 TED talks continue to roll out and I was blown away by the presentation from Willie Smits on his twenty-year project to restore and regrow rainforest in Borneo. As he tells it, it all began with an orphaned orangutan near death in a cage. Despite several hundred rescues of orangutans Smitts realized that to save the species he had to save their habitat.

Protecting rainforest habitat in Borneo from wildfires and slash-and-burn growing methods meant reorganizing the entire agricultural system in the area. His project is an integrated system that benefits both the local people, the local climate, the rainforest habitat, and the endangered red apes. It is a beautiful example of what we can achieve if we recognize that we are part of the ecosystem and what we do can either “tend our own garden” and work for our health and survival, or it can degrade the habitat we share with wildlife for years to come. The project literally lives the concept of a backyard habitat.

Learn more about Smitt’s work through Orangutan Outreach.

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