Hi Guys! Yikes! It has been ages since my last post. This has been a crazy month to say the least, and I’ve spent more time away traveling for work than I have at home. Needless to say, it has been difficult finding time to post anything even though I have at least four pending that I want to get up! ANYWAY. I wanted to get this up quickly because I have been SO CAPTIVATED by this sweet baby orangutan, Budi, who is finally safe and in the caring hands of the staff of International Animal Recue’s orangutan rescue center (thank God) in Ketapang, Indonesia.
Budi was rescued from a terribly neglectful situation in which he was being kept as a “pet.” For the first year of his life, Budi was kept in a chicken cage and fed only a diet of condensed milk. For obvious reasons, one should never keep an orangutan (or any non-domesticated animal) as a pet. Furthermore, one should never ever keep an animal in the conditions in which Budi was forced to live. These conditions contributed to a host of medical problems including: severe malnutrition, anemia, a metabolic disease, and malformed bones due to improper nutrition, in addition to emotional trauma. The poor little babe was without his mum and received no care or comfort. It is still too early to tell whether he will suffer permanent damage. His tiny body was wracked with so much pain that even the slightest touch or jostle would cause him to cry out. In fact, I first learned about about Budi from a video IAR posted of him shortly after he arrived in their care. He was nestled under some blankets on the floor, unable to move or sit up on his own. In order to feed him, the veterinary staff had to gently prop him up so he could take his bottle. Budi cried out and his pain, discomfort, and what I could only describe as a sad weariness was written all over his sweet face.
I’ll admit, I am pretty soft hearted.Especially when it comes to animals. As I get older I’ve come to accept this trait a great strength of mine: one that defines my character and is my moral compass as I navigate life. But, at the same time, it is also a great weakness. Show me an animal suffering and it will bother me… Probably for days. I think those of you who are vegan for ethical reasons would probably relate to at least some of this. Out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn’t something I understand or relate to. I can’t “unknow” things I’ve seen and I simply feel everything. Whether it’s being kept up at night (yes. seriously.) struggling with the thought that factory farmed animals all over the world are suffering at that exact moment, or brooding about a baby elephant who lost his mum to poaching, or worrying about Budi and wondering if he has had any relief from the pain he is suffering. This can be emotionally exhausting. It would be easy to throw my hands up and feel helpless against all of this, but instead, I allow this emotional burden to compel me, and others who feel this way, to act. It’s overwhelming when you feel like you’re only a drop in a giant ocean, but small choices make big differences. These are seemingly small actions we can do in our daily lives: going vegan, educating others about what we know, or making the decision not to patronize places like the marine mammal parks or circuses. If you want to engage these issues on a more macro level one might consider actually going into the field to volunteer or work with organizations like IAR or (perhaps more doable) by writing to your state representatives to show your support or scorn for a particular bill that would effect animals. As far as Budi goes , something about watching him in his video struck me more deeply than usual and I couldn’t get him out of my head. After spending the last few days thinking about him IAR recently posted an update reporting Budi has made small improvements and can now sit up on his own for short periods of time. He is still unable to chew, but appears to enjoy sucking on orange segments! Hooray for Budi! Budi’s ordeal is heartbreaking, but also underscores a much larger issue: the illegal wildlife trade.The scale of this black market trade is so enormous that it has brought many species to the brink of extinction and is the reason countless others are now endangered.
“… it’s the largest direct threat to the future of many of the world’s most threatened species. It is second only to habitat destruction in overall threats against species survival. (World Wildlife Fund)”
Take a step back and think about that. Years and years of conservation efforts to bring populations of endangered species back have been thwarted and unraveled by human greed. We’re not only talking about elephants and rhinos, who are the most obvious victims of illegal wildlife trade due to the black market value of their tusks and horns. We’re talking about everything from plant and timber species to marine animals. This illegal trade thrives because there’s a demand. The reasons that drive demand are as diverse as the species illegally traded. For example, wildlife trade is a major threat to orangutans. Female orangutans are most often hunted and when they are caught with offspring they, like little Budi, are kept as pets. A species that receives less press is the Green Turtle, which is currently listed as endangered. This species is exploited for many reasons and trade in their parts remains profitable. Like other species, their parts are sought after in parts of the world for their use in traditional ceremonies and for medicinal purposes.
There is a new documentary called Racing Extinction that I’m really looking forward to seeing. It recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival and I’m hoping my local film organization, Newport Film, will host a screening this summer. The film, from the creators of Blackfish,