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The Quest to Save Borneo’s Orangutans

Tim Laman and Cheryl Knott make conservation a family affair in documenting these majestic animals.

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With more than 80 percent of orangutan habitat lost, land preservation is critical for creatures such as Walimah and her baby.
This story appears in the October/November 2016 issue of Nat Geo WILD magazine.

Biological anthropologist Cheryl Knott and photojournalist Tim Laman have dedicated their lives to the orangutans of Borneo’s Gunung Palung National Park. Together with their children, they’ve made it a family mission to reveal new threats to the great apes in their rain forest homes.

The Nat Geo WILD show Orangutans on the Edge: Mission Critical explored the challenges that orangutans face in the wild, and the obstacles that scientists, photographers, and explorers face when documenting them in the thick rain forest of Borneo.

No one is more familiar with the orangutan’s challenges than Laman, who scales massive trees and journeys to remote locations to document these majestic creatures. Knott, a Harvard-trained scientist and director of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project, works to understand orangutans and protect them from the numerous threats they face in the wild. Time is of the essence, Knott explains: “Since orangutans only bear young about once every eight years, they can’t replace their numbers fast enough.” With more than 80 percent of the orangutans’ habitat lost, and illegal logging expanding at an ever increasing pace, preservation efforts have become as important as research.

Save the Orangutans Borneo’s Gunung Palung National Park, site of Cheryl Knott’s 10-year study, is home to 2,500 orangutans. Learn more about the work being done by the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project and ways that you can help.