Groups to save orangutans

Star News Group, 9 September 2008,  Kath Gannaway

TWO Healesville organisations are proving their worth in the fight to save Borneo's orangutans.

The Judith Eardley Save Wildlife Centre and Healesville Sanctuary are working with Borneo Orangutan Society (BOS) Australia as part of their ongoing support of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Facility.

Judith Eardley's donation of $10,000 has funded a skills exchange which will have enormous benefits for the animals and the people working with them.

Healesville Sanctuary's Murray Ellis, who returned from his second volunteer stint through BOS Australia, said sharing experience and knowledge was a valuable contribution.

"We have sent an electrician over who wired in a generator so the facility is not only self-sufficient but safe, and most recently we brought out two keepers to learn better techniques for animal enrichment," Mr Ellis said.

Narbri and John Leo spent time at Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary learning new ways to keep the animals happy and active.

Mr Ellis said the need is huge and Nyaru Menteng is working against the odds to deal with the effects of habitat destruction for palm oil, which he said was the major threat to the animals.

"The facility was built for 180 and when I left in December there were 640 orangutans ,from babies a month-and-a-half old to 50-year-old adults."

Mr Ellis said while the situation was bleak, there was hope and several ways people in the Yarra Valley could continue to help.

Donating to and buying from the Judith Eardley Wildlife Centre was one way which had already reaped rewards.

Cash donations to the orangutan fund can be made through the Judith Eardley pledge site at

People can also be aware of their own use of palm oil.

"What would be wonderful would be for people to look at the things they buy and ring the manufacturer about their use of palm oil," he said.