CAROLINE Ladewig can’t wait to see her adopted children again – and hold their furry bodies close to her.
She said she couldn’t help but get attached to the ‘innocent’ youngsters – and couldn’t help but have a few favourites.
Especially two-year-old Wulan.
The acupuncturist from Alstonville Holistic Medicine has recently returned from a two-month stint at the Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, where she cared for orphaned baby orangutans and used her skills to treat them.
It’s something she has wanted to do since reading Jane Goodall’s books when she was younger.
And about two years ago, she decided ‘it’s time’ and she put her name down to volunteer with UK-based Travellers Worldwide to work at the rehabilitation centre for the endangered animals.
It is normally a three-year wait to get into Sepilok, but she was able to go early because a vacancy came up.
And the self-funded trip was a ‘significant expense’, but ‘one that was well worth it’.
“They’re so beautiful,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to work with apes.
“I didn’t realise how much I loved these ones (orangutans) until I went there.
“When I saw them – they are the most loving creatures.
“For them to be able to trust humans again after what we’ve done to them, it’s incredible.”
Ms Ladewig said she was initially upset when she saw the caged orangutans in care at the rehabilitation centre.
She was there to feed them and help train them to live in the wild.
While there, she also offered her skills as an acupuncturist. She has been an acupuncturist for 13 years.
She treated young orangutans with diarrhoea and older animals with soft tissue injuries, and was able to see improvements in the animals’ physical conditions by the time she left.
When she returns in December, she plans to take supplements like pro-biotics with her for the orangutans.
And she is keen to do more work in other parts of the world.
“It (the trip) totally changed my life,” she said.
“I know this (caring for apes) will be part of my life forever.”
She didn’t just return from Sabah with fond memories and excitement about going back in December, but she also had a message.
She said most of the orphaned orangutans arrived at the rehabilitation centre after their mother’s were killed because they ventured on to plantations grown for palm oil production.
She said the number of palm oil plantations in Sabah meant there were only small pockets of rainforest habitat left for the orangutans.
“We can save them, but then there’s nowhere for them to go,” she said.
“The whole palm oil industry needs to be slowed down.
“They’re continually destroying their (the orangutans’) environment.”
She said the palm oil producers considered orangutans as pests because they ate the heart of the tree, and killed it.
Her message was for Australian consumers to be aware of what products contained palm oil and to avoid them, though she said palm oil isn’t labelled on products in Australia.
She called on the Western world to continue to pressure Malaysia to make the palm oil industry more sustainable.
She said there were moves by the Malaysian Government to buy plantation land with the aim of creating rainforest wildlife corridors for the orangutans.