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Yarmouth children help save orangutan

PUBLISHED: 18:02 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 July 2010

They are Asia's only great apes, clinging to survival in the remaining fragments of one of the world's most fragile habitats.

Thousands of miles from the jungles of Borneo, children at a Great Yarmouth School are helping to save the orangutan.

They are Asia's only great apes, clinging to survival in the remaining fragments of one of the world's most fragile habitats.

Thousands of miles from the jungles of Borneo, children at a Great Yarmouth School are helping to save the orangutan.

Pupils at Edward Worlledge Middle School have been inspired to help the endangered species by teacher Rebecca Marpole.

Rebecca, 31, worked as a volunteer last summer at a remote reserve from where orphaned orangutans are released back into the wild. Since returning she has enthused pupils with her love of the animals whose future is threatened by humans and climate change.

A non-school uniform and fun day raised £320, which was used to adopt an orangutan called Violet who Rebecca had met in Borneo.

Children have also taken part in a competition to design posters to help save the orangutan, with pupils Ruby Cox, Sophie Peloe and Erin Horne winning runners-up prizes.

Working at the remote Lamandau Forest Reserve was an extraordinary experience for Rebecca who has a passionate interest in wildlife and conservation.

During her six weeks at the reserve she helped construct a patrol post at an orangutan release site.

“I had a fantastic experience, it and was the first time I had seen orangutans in the wild,” said Rebecca.

“They are very intelligent animals and mostly very friendly and gentle.

“We were told to keep our distance from them, but they are such curious creatures and would often go up to us - one of their favourite tricks was stealing our soap.

“Like humans they have all got individual personalities and one had even been taught sign language.

“Some of the previously released orangutans go into the wild but others prefer to stay around the camp.”

The reserve can only be reached by river and is several hours away from the nearest village.

Conditions in the camp were basic with Rebecca and the other volunteers having to cope with floods and hazards including crocodiles, poisonous spiders and leeches.

Best known for their distinctive orange fur, orangutans live on a diet of fruit and leaves and were found throughout much of Asia.

The two species of orangutan now live only on Borneo and the neighbouring island of Sumatra.

Their remaining jungle habitat is being threatened by palm oil plantations and illegal logging and gold mining.

For more information visit www.orangutan.org.uk

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