Jungle Trek Inspires Book About Orangutans
Indonesia and Malaysia are the home of the last orangutans in the wild. Unfortunately, the last swaths of rainforest that support orangutans are threatened by the unchecked expansion of agribusinesses that are clearing rainforest to make room for crops–especially palm plantations. Orangutans, tigers, elephants and other endangered animals are not welcome on these lands after they have been converted to agriculture. Many are shot and poisoned. Others are killed in the fires employed to clear the land quickly, while many of those that survive the initial onslaught face starvation.
The endangered orangutan lives in the vanishing rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. It’s estimated that only about 50,000 of the great apes remain in the wild after their habitat has been slashed and burned for agribusinesses, especially palm oil, across Southeast Asia. Without aggressive rainforest conservation, orangutans will be essentially extinct in the wild within a few decades. Saving the orangutan can help save Sumatran tigers, elephants and many other endangered species.
Between 1990 and 2000, 20 percent of Indonesia’s rainforests were lost to deforestation (24 million hectares). From 2001 to 2020, Indonesia converted another 27.7 million hectares of jungle into agriculture. The impact on wildlife has been devastating.
Daniel Clarke and his family had a deep respect for fellow Australian Steve Irwin—the crocodile hunter. They were saddened when Irwin died while scuba diving in 2006. Shortly thereafter, 10-year-old Daniel watched Irwin’s production about orangutan conservation, which sparked a passion, vision and mission within the young man.
Clarke has cerebral palsy and has spent most of his life in a wheelchair. In many regards, his condition has helped him leap tall buildings.
“Steve Irwin was my inspiration,” Daniel said. “I was devastated when he died.”
In 2007, the Starlight Foundation granted Daniel a wish. Everyone expected him to ask for a trip to Disneyland or a new car to carry his wheelchair. His response was extraordinary.
“I want to save the orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra,” Daniel said.
The Starlight Foundation tried to accommodate Daniel’s wish, but saving an endangered species that lives in the jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia is not a simple task for a young man or a million men, especially when the species in question is in the crosshairs of agricultural expansion, logging and corruption. Given the complexity of the challenge, Daniel compromised and took a trip with his family to the Australia Zoo, which ignited his passion for orangutan conservation even more.
To help channel his passion, the Clarke family found The Orangutan Project (TOP), which adopts orangutans for $55 per year. Daniel adopted an orangutan and encouraged others to do the same. He then decided to raise $10,000 to help save orangutans and their habitat. He spoke with his school principal and developed an event where students recruited sponsors to pay them for every lap completed around the sports field (on foot or on bike). Daniels’s first event raised $5,500 for TOP, while generating more orangutan adoptions. TOP named Daniel as the National Children’s Ambassador.
In 2008, thanks to an anonymous sponsor, Daniel and William made their first of two trips to Kalimantan to see orangutans in the wild and in rehabilitation. They wrote a book about the experience to raise awareness and funding for orangutan conservation and habitat conservation across Borneo and Sumatra.
Tears In The Jungle: A Children’s Adventure to Save the Orangutan is recognized as a valuable teaching resource for primary, secondary and universities. Faced with their own challenges, these brothers tell the story of their trek through the jungles of Borneo to see orangutans and the people on the front lines who are defending them.
“We dream that all orangutans will live peacefully in the jungle, with no threat to their future,” said Daniel Clarke. “We can save the orangutans from extinction. If we all pursue our passions, we can all make a difference in the world.”
Read the full story about Daniel and William Clarke’s jungle treks to Borneo and beyond to help save the endangered orangutan and their critical habitat on Borneo and Sumatra.
Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world with more than 267 million people. The country is comprised of more than 17,500 islands, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Lombok, Sumatra and Sulawesi. Learn more about Indonesia.