Did you know that humans and orangutans share about 96 percent of their DNA? Sadly, the apes' human-like characteristics and intelligence have contributed to their popularity as attractions in zoos and entertainment parks worldwide, which is, in turn, contributing to the species' rapidly declining population.
A new documentary titled Eyes of the Orangutan explores this troubling facet of wildlife tourism, while also celebrating the humans' closest relatives. As a lucrative business, wildlife tourism is estimated to be worth around US$250 billion per year – which comes at a cost of the animals.
The documentary is hosted by Aaron Gekoski, an award-winning environmental photojournalist specializing in human-animal conflict, who learned of a major undercover bust in Jakarta targeting orangutan smugglers that was headed by an animal welfare organization and a special unit from the Indonesian Police. Eyes of The Orangutan was four years in the making, during which Gekoski embarked on the investigation along with director Chris Scarffe and cinematographer Will Foster-Grundy.
The documentary is produced by Terra Mater Factual Studios, the studio behind The Ivory Game (2016) and Sea of Shadows (2019).
You can join the exclusive online premiere this coming Sunday, which will be held in two sessions at 4pm Western Indonesian Time (WIB) (10AM BST) or Monday, 12am WIB (6pm BST). The event is free of charge, and you can register on the Eyes of the Orangutan website.
There will be a discussion and Q&A session in the event, which will be hosted by actress and conservationist Shannon Elizabeth, along with guests including Gekoski, Scarffe, Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) co-founder Femke den Haas, as well as Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation's CEO Dr. Jamartin Sihite, among others.