Judith Curran, sometimes known as Ibu Juju by her friends at Nyaru Menteng, co-founded BOS New Zealand and is a highly accomplished television producer and executive. She is widely recognised for her exceptional work on the awarded documentary series ‘Orangutan Jungle School’ filmed at BOS Foundation’s rescue centres and for a previous series called “Orangutan Island’ which featured on Animal Planet.
How did you become involved in orangutan conservation?
I produced my first orangutan documentary series at Nyaru Menteng in 2008, and as soon as I met Cha Cha and Chen Chen, Jordan and all the others and saw the far-reaching effects of deforestation, I knew this was not just film-making for me but a much more important journey. It was August 2009 when I became a true activist. Along with some orangutan zoo-keepers from Auckland and Melbourne Zoo, I took on Cadburys when they changed their recipe for Dairy Milk chocolate to include unsustainably grown palm oil. My meeting with the Managing Director, where I showed him the evidence, and then Cadbury’s backflip on using palm oil a week later, was a brilliant start to my orangutan conservation contributions.
Please tell us about your engagement with BOS New Zealand and what its launch means for the strength of the global BOS network.
The BOS affiliates which support BOS Foundation in Indonesia are absolutely critical to the ongoing efforts of saving these apes and allowing so many of them to return to the wild where they should be. New Zealand is a small country, but we always punch above our weight (a very Kiwi saying) and partnering with the well-resourced and managed BOS Australia will have a very positive impact. I also just love that New Zealand is now officially part of this mission – we are an outward-looking nation wanting to contribute internationally to the health of our planet.
Do you have a favourite memory while filming with orangutans?
This is such a hard question to answer as I have been so privileged in getting to know so many orangutan individuals over 15 years and witnessed them succeeding, failing and just being adorable goofballs. But one profound memory stands out. I was lucky enough to meet Alba very soon after she was rescued and brought to Nyaru Menteng. We were allowed to film her story, which was such a gesture of trust from the BOS Foundation, as no other film crew was allowed this access. I remember her looking out at me from inside her socialisation cage with her extraordinary cornflower blue eyes and snow-white hair. She peered at me curiously, and an expression on her face told me she noted my blue eyes and blonde hair – different to the appearance of the people who had been caring for her so well. This memory of connection with such a unique individual from an already iconic species will stay with me forever.
Please finish this sentence: Orangutans are…
…our close cousins from whom humans have so much to learn in how to preserve our precious planet.