For more than eight hours, we navigated the Sekonyer River in a wooden boat, cruising through Tanjung Puting National Park in the Central Kalimantan region of Borneo, Indonesia. After docking, we walked about an hour in the lush rainforest. Then, our tour guide and ranger, Adut, placed corn and yams on top of a wooden table. 

It was not long until orange-haired Bornean orangutans began to approach the table. More than five were carrying babies. Seeing so many newborns was, Adut informed us, highly unusual. He conjectured that the park’s closure and resulting prolonged quiet due to the pandemic may have contributed to an optimal primate mating environment. 

Observing the orangutans, I saw how intimately bonded the mothers were to their babies and how deeply they seemed to express love in every movement with them. As I watched a nearby mother and infant embrace, I photographed this magnificent moment as the mother was tenderly kissing her child’s neck. 

Orangutans are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, mainly because of habitat loss—in Indonesia they have lost 80 percent of their forest area. Sanctuaries like the Tanjung Puting National Park are helping to preserve their lives and future. And while I was happy to see so many new families among them, it impressed on me the urgency of finding ways to thwart deforestation. 


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