Founder of The Orangutan Project campaigns on Long Island for humanity’s ‘orange...

Founder of The Orangutan Project campaigns on Long Island for humanity’s ‘orange cousins

Leif Cocks with an orangutan
Plans visit to Sachem and Cold Spring Harbor libraries

The Nature Conservancy is co-sponsoring an event along with The Orangutan Project to help educate citizens and raise awareness of the plight of threatened orangutans at two public events this month — Sachem Public Library in Holbrook on Monday, Jan. 22, and Cold Spring Harbor Library on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Both events will be held at 7 p.m.

The program will be presented by Leif Cocks, founder and president of the international charity, The Orangutan Project, who has worked for more than three decades to save humanity’s “orange cousins” from extinction. Cocks will share the fascinating inside story of his personal journey with these creatures who captivated his heart and mind and ultimately formed his life’s work, a recently published book titled “Orangutans, My Cousins, My Friends.”

Part personal history, part philosophical discussion, part scientific case for conservation, and a call to action for all who wish to help save the orangutan, this talk will inspire, inform and touch hearts.

“Orangutans share 97 percent of our DNA — they are one of our closest living relatives,” explained Nancy Kelley, director of The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. “More than 85 percent of the world’s orangutans live in Borneo (in Indonesia and Malaysia) where they require large tracts of healthy forest for survival. Unfortunately, industrial timber, mining and the rapidly growing oil palm industry are destroying the orangutan’s forest faster than anywhere else on earth, and the orangutan’s very existence is at risk. Among other efforts, The Nature Conservancy has a dedicated team of forest guardians and is hard at work to protect the orangutan and its forest forever,” she said.

Adult orangutans are frequently killed as the forest is cleared and any infants that survive usually end up in captivity as illegal pets. Although Bornean orangutans are currently listed as Critically Endangered with approximately 55,000 remaining, it is estimated more than 5,000 are killed each year.

“Starting with my time at a zoo, I found myself so intrigued by the primates, I would spend my lunchtimes in the orangutan enclosures, eating my lunch with them. I felt no fear when I was with them, just a calm sense of awe and appreciation. Over the years, I was no longer able to see the orangutans, or any of the great apes, as being other or different to me and had come to the conclusion that they were not only sentient beings but persons in the true sense of the word,” said Cocks. “My recently published book is infused with inspiring and at times challenging stories of the many orangutans I’ve worked with over the years.”

In his book, the author recounts powerful stories including getting a giant diabetic alpha male to willingly allow him to undertake daily blood tests and insulin injections; sleeping with an injured orangutan to nurse her back to full health; witnessing births of newborn orangutans and the privilege of holding them just days after birth; to the orangutan with an uncanny obsession with fellow redhead, Nicole Kidman.

Cocks will discuss his memoir of his experiences in Borneo working with this critically endangered species and hopes to inspire, inform and touch hearts, whether one is an animal lover, environmentalist or simply looking to be enlightened and maybe even change the way one sees and acts in the world. A book signing will follow. This program is free and open to all but registration is requested by calling 631-588-5024 (Sachem) or 631-692-6820 (CSH).

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