LIFE

Top primatologist appeals for funds to save the orangutans

Primatologist Dr Francine Neago is appealing for funds to set up an orangutan and wildlife conservation centre and a School of Ethology. — Picture by KE OoiPrimatologist Dr Francine Neago is appealing for funds to set up an orangutan and wildlife conservation centre and a School of Ethology. — Picture by KE OoiGEORGE TOWN, Sept 7 — One of the world’s leading primatologist, Dr Francine Neago, is appealing for funds to set up a wildlife rehabilitation forest reserve in Indonesia.

The 87-year-old French citizen, who has been living in the jungles in Sumatra for over 45 years, said she is planning to set up another conservation centre for orangutans and other wildlife in South Sumatra.

“The Acheh government has given me 1,000ha which is made up mostly primary forest and I plan to build a School of Ethology on about 2ha of land in the forest,” she said.

She said the school will provide much needed education on animal behaviour, especially orangutans.

“No such school exists. I want to set this up so that people can study about animal behaviours especially the amazing creatures, the orangutans,” she said.

The forest, called Kaya Tripa Suam, is located about 20km from the south of Jakarta.

She said they will need around US$100,000 (RM420,850) to set up the school.

“We also need more volunteers, about 10, to help us with the conservation centre,” she said.

She said she has three veterinarians who are willing to provide their services at the centre.

“We don’t have money, that’s why we are looking for volunteers who are willing to live in the forest and be with wild animals but it is important that they are patient and love animals,” she said.

She added that the orangutans are rapidly declining in the wild, so education is necessary to create awareness and protect the endangered species.

Dr Neago, who speaks five languages and is a retired medical doctor, is renowned for her work with orangutans especially in the past 45 years.

She recalled setting up the Singapore Zoo in 1966 and how she lived with 18 of the endangered primates.

“They are highly intelligent and very effectionate creatures, in fact, they are very close to humans, they are almost like our ancestors,” she said.

Dr Neago set up an orangutan and wildlife conservation and rehabilitation centre at a 6,000ha forest in North Sumatra some 45 years ago.

She has been living there and now hopes to set up a similar conservation centre at the 1,000ha forest in South Sumatra.

“We don’t only rehabilitate orangutans that were brought to our centre but also other wildlife like tigers and elephants,” she said.

Dr Neago is currently in Penang while she settles issues with her passport. Those wishing to help contact her at francineneago@gmail.com.

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