A bestial romance novelette about a girl and a rescued chimpanzee who fall in love. Their union results in the birth of “the missing link.”
Dedicated to: my Grandmas, sorry Grandmas
The “missing link” may have existed in the past, but, like the mythical “lyger,” this creature is sterile and cannot reproduce, hence the die-out of the species as humans diverged from their chimpanzee brothers and sisters over the years, a separation which began with the discovery of fire.
As time went on, humans became more and more separated from the natural world as their species multiplied and spread across the planet, learning to live in concrete jungles, forgetting the wisdom of the forest.
The love between man and chimp dwindled too as man forgot his roots in the forest. The species interacted less and less, until at some point they stopped relations completely.
That is why humans eventually lost record of the “missing link” and remain bewildered as to how humans diverged from their closest relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzees and Gorillas.
That is, until Girl returned to the forest and met Chimp.
Chimp was a broken soul until he met Girl. He had seen his mother killed by poachers as a young chimplette and was rescued shortly after by a well known rescue group called Ape Action Africa. He was taken to their headquarters in Camaroon and received the tenderest of care by the dedicated staff comprised of local women. Unfortunately, like many chimps in Chimps situation, Chimp suffered terribly from depression, a common and often fatal consequence of what Chimp had been through. …
Girl grew up in a big city across the world. She learned about Chimpanzees at a young age and fell in love whith the idea of these furry creatures, so much like humans and yet so different. She was fascinated by how they lived so simply and so closely with nature. Unlike humans, they did not seem to live out of balance with the natural world, and she wondered if we humans could learn a thing or two from our hairy cousins in the forest. So she vowed to go there and do that, to study Chimpanzees. Her goal was to see if the chimps could give her some lifestyle tips that she could share with her fellow humans and perhaps restore some balance to the planet, which everyone generally agreed was going to shite due to human activities on the Earth.
Well, Girl got a whole lot more than she bargained for when she finally made it to study the Chimpanzees. She ended up falling in love with Chimp, who was clingly and needy due to his traumatized beginnings. For whatever reason, she liked that, and there was something about his his smile. Well, I wont go into too much detail here, but they…ya know…and 9 months later Girl gave birth to the hairiest, strangest looking baby you ever did see. Turns out this child had curious genetics…unlike humans, who share 98% of the genetic material of Chimpanzees, this baby had 99% of the genetic material, thus it was deemed the “Missing Link.” They named the child Marty.
Marty was a curious child, quite wild in many ways but also quite gentle and a bit less hairy than a Chimp. Marty could walk upright and looked a bit more human than other Chimpanzees the child’s age. It was determined early on that Marty was sterile, much like a mule or lyger. Indeed this was, “The Missing Link.”
Marty was raised under the close watch of scientists and was able to teach us humans a lot about how to live closely with nature.
There is one memorable instance of a banana eating contest in which Marty blew all the other human participants away, eating a whopping 35 bananas in one sitting.
Balance has been restored to the planet, now that Marty has given us humans insight into how to live more gently in the world.
Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite a tradition yet but this year marks year 2 of this blog’s donation to the Jane Gooddall Institute. It’s also year 2 of this blog.
A little recap–Since starting, I have travelled across the country via greyhound, seen a complete solar eclipse, worked on a cashmere goat farm, explored The Big Apple, living in various sub-standard yet semi-charming communal living spaces, tried out a handful of odd-jobs, chipped away at creative projects, integrated into society somewhat, and honed in on the art of tap dancing.
It’s the first time in many years that I have stayed put for longer than a few months, which I must admit is a struggle for an idyllic, adventure seeking soul like mine. Mental sabotage aside, its been good to stay in one place, sit still, and focus a bit; good to observe the passage of time and seasons within and without; good to experience life on a continuum, get a taste of the “grind” rather than ramblin’ around from one storyline to the next. Its been a good period of reflection and developing focus. At least for now that is my feeling. Time will tell if I get squirrely again.
All in all, this blog has been helpful for keeping track of projects. I appreciate all of you who have been reading and following along. Special shout out of course to my Grandma Pat and maternal units who read my stories and provide feedback, also to the international readers: hello India! Hello New Zealand! Hello UK! Hello Berlin! Hello Israel/Palestine. I’m very stoked to be reaching such a diverse audience and really welcome everyone’s comments and input.
Looking back, last year I donated a forgotten amount to the Jane Gooddall Institute because it was the best option I could find to contribute to the cause of chimpanzee conservation, something I really wanted to do since I admire the work of Jane Gooddall and the conservation efforts she has inspired across the globe.
That’s why I chose to donate again this year, this time using the funds I raised while street performing over the course of the year, a hard, yet joyfully earned $200 for JGI. Thank you New Yorkers!
Interesting to note, I made a whopping $0.08 off of advertisements on this blog in the same time period…I’d donate that too but WordPress doesn’t cut checks that small, so the pot will grow for next year…
Anyway, according to JGI, my donation will be doubled as part of their year-end fundraiser, so that’s $400 which will go towards replanting important forest habitats and restoring critical forest corridors that chimpanzees and other great apes need to survive. I say “my” donation but I’d like to note that I consider it “our” donation, since this blog has anchored my efforts, and you are a part of it all by reading.
That being said, I’ll elaborate on the impacts of our donation.
According to the JGI thank you letter, we are supporting programs that improve the health, education and livelihoods of the people in communities surrounding chimpanzee habitats whose future is vitally connected to the future of chimpanzees. Donations also support the Roots & Shoots program, which is equipping young people in over 100 countries to become the next generation of conservation leaders. Side note: The Urban Mining event I hosted this year was part of the Roots & Shoots program.
A big part of JGI donations go to the running of the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Center in the Congo and providing medical attention to the chimps brought to their doors. According to a letter sent out by Dr. Atencia, the executive director of the Jane Gooddall Institute-Congo and head veterinarian, the sanctuary takes in chimpanzees rescued from poachers, saving them from being sold as pets or bushmeat. Chimps often arrive malnourished and injured and in need of urgent care. It costs about $7000 to care for one chimpanzee at the center per year, and they live about 60 years. Merp! Donations go towards formula for infant chimps, food for adult chimps, and lifetime veterinary care. Chimpanzees are endangered species, with an estimated 150,000 left in the wild. Once rehabilitated at Tchimpounga, under the care of a dedicated team of veterinarians and care-givers, chimpanzees are released into sanctuaries where they are protected from poachers and habitat loss. Here are three examples of chimpanzees being cared for at the Tchimpounga center, made possible through our donations…
Its pretty crazy how much individual care is required to rehabilitate a baby chimp. They are much like humans in this way, requiring a lot of affection and attention in order to develop into healthy, sociable creatures. Without that love, they generally do not survive. I’ve heard gorillas are even more sensative and prone to losing the will to live when separated from their mothers. Interesting.
Well, I’ve run out of things to say but I think we are creating some great positive ripples in this world folks by engaging with this topic. There are so many causes and creatures in need, it can be overwhelming and discouraging to think about where to start and what to do to help, but as Dr. Jane Gooddall says:
I like the way she thinks.
Also I’ve thought about this while wondering if chimpanzee conservation is really what I should be focusing on in light of all the other crises going on in the world:
As soon as we all unloaded from the bus from Jordan and waited in another line to cross the boarder into The West Bank, I could tell something was up. There was tension in the air as we queued up to have our documents reviewed and to proceed across the boarder. It was taking forever.
A Palestinian man waiting behind me made disgruntled comments about how long it was taking for the officials to review another person’s documents ahead of us. I nodded as if I understood his sentiment, even though at that point I hadn’t witnessed any injustice. Beurocratic processes are notorious for being painfully slow everywhere, I thought, so I wasn’t that disturbed by the hold up. I did notice it was a Palestinian person the man was referring to, but again wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or discrimination and didn’t have enough experience in the land to pass judgement.
Inching along, I finally made it to the counter to present my documents. The officials were Israeli, I came to find, which is strange since we were entering the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.
Technically the West Bank is part of Israel, so I suppose it makes sense to have Israeli government controlling the boarder, but its still a strange situation if you think about it. Usually when you cross into a country, the officials are of that country. Like I said, the land is technically Israel, but we were passing into Palestinian territory so it would have made sense to have Palestinian officials at the boarder. Just sayin’. Especially since the Allenby Bridge is the only border crossing point Palestinians can use to enter the West Bank.
If a Palestinian travels abroad, they are not permitted to fly to Tel Aviv and enter the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea side like Israelis and other human beings. They do not have the same privileges. Palestinians are only permitted to pass through the Alleby Bridge, which is only accessible by way of Jordan, so Palestinians are restricted in how they can travel abroad. Its a pain. They cannot go through any other border crossing point from the Jordan side either, which there are two of, one in the South via Eilat, and another in the North near the Sea of Galilee. No, all Palestinians have to come through the Allenby Bridge, where I was at the moment being described.
Its a bit confusing but I digress, when it was my turn to step up to the window and present my documents in order to pass through, I was surprised at the way the officials conducted themselves. There were two officials, young military women. The official took a long time to review my passport, passing it to her colleague and the two of them talking between themselves without cluing me in as I stood there, wondering what the issue was, waiting for further instructions. It wasn’t very human, but I suppose any country could have grumpy, jaded border patrol employees. I wont count that as a strike against Israelis, but its worth noting. They were not friendly.
After deliberating and having another soldier come look over my passport, the officials directed me to a waiting area. I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait or why. Apparently, I was not in the clear to pass through and I had no idea what made me suspicious. As I sat there waiting for the next step, the seats around me filled with Palestinian families. Eventually, Hanan came to meet me, as she was also sent to the waiting area for further review. I was glad to have met her, otherwise I would have been much more anxious and confused waiting there alone.
It was a half hour before my name was called. I went into an office with an Israeli man who questioned me about what I had been doing in Israel and what I would be doing next. In the end I think the questioning was related to my visa, as my re-entry into the the country from Jordan would result in my visa being extended another 3 months.
Since I already had a plane ticket out of Tel Aviv a few weeks later, it was a non-issue and I was allowed to continue through the boarder. Simple fix.
So I went through, first stopping to confer with Hanan. I told her I’d wait for her on the other side, not knowing how long that would be. And guess how long it ended up being, by the way….
With no clue where I was, no idea where to go, and no gumption to set off on my own, I waited the entire time for Hanan to pass through, even though I barely knew her.
While I waited, I observed the people passing through. I had never been in a Muslim country before, save for Jordan, and was mesmerized by the clothing people wore, especially the women covered head to foot in black, with only slits for their eyes to see. I found it strange, but that’s just the way things are there.
During my hours of waiting, two noteworthy things happened. First, I met a man from South Africa on his way to Mecca with a group of 13 others. I had never met anyone from South Africa before, and never met anyone going to Mecca, a pilgrimage I had learned about in religion class back in my Catholic School days. The concept had seemed quite mythical, but turns out lots of people really do that, including my new friend, the South African.
The man was wearing a funny little pillbox hat and a white linen tunic and was very nice to talk to. I sat with him for about two hours as he waited for his party to pass through security and collect their bags, one by one. I asked him about South Africa, the wild animals there (chimpanzees and monkeys, of course). He entertained my chimpanzee fantasies and gave me pointers about good beaches to visit, but I forgot all that information because I didn’t write any of it down. Eventually everyone in his party made it through security and they moseyed along, leaving me with my bags to wait in the figurative dark for Hanan to come through.
It had been several hours already and I was beginning to doubt if she’d make it through. Of course she would, but it was taking so damn long the worries began to creep in. I staved them off as I continued to observe the flow of people coming through.
The second noteworthy thing to happen was among the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in this life. Funny in a peculiar and irreverent sort of way.
It went like this: I had my big backpacking backpack propped up in a corner and was sitting a bit away from it in observer mode. Then all the sudden a pair of devout looking Muslim folks laid down mats in front of my pack and started bowing to my backpack. Well, actually they were doing their prayer ritual in the direction of Mecca, but it looked like they were bowing to my backpack. I found it very funny and wanted to take a photo, but didn’t because #1 my camera was in my backpack and #2 that would have been oh so rude.
I’ll draw a picture and include it here someday.
Finally, after 7 hours of waiting, Hanan came through. She was surprised and glad that I was still there. It was dark out by that time and we took some sort of bus van out of the terminal to where Hanan’s parents were waiting for us. They had arrived hours before, not expecting to have to wait until 9 pm to pick us up. No one expected it to take that long.
In the drive to Hana’s parents house I gazed out the window into the night as Hanan’s father talked about life in Palestine. I got my first glimpse of the wall and learned that inconvenience and waiting are not at all unfamiliar to Palestinians living in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation, which is what the situation is, I was learning for the first time.
This is just a friendly reminder, a gentle nudge, to switch from Google to Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees.
Here is a wonderful little documentary to explain why its such a good idea to jump on this bandwagon:
From an Art and Adventure standpoint, this is great because it’s helping chimps…and people…and showing how one person on an adventure can make an enormouslyawesomely huge positive impact on the planet through ripples (Thank you Jane Gooddall).
To make the switch and start making good use of your screen time on a global scale, all you have to do is go here, I think: https://info.ecosia.org/what.
Or search Ecosia on google for the last time and go from there.
I am writing you in the pleasant afterglow of a fruitful craigslist adventure which ultimately landed me walking as gracefully as Bigfoot down a hair-show runway with bubblegum pink bangs and has left me today with an envelope full of chopped locks to donate and November rent.
After growing my hair for the past 5ish years without dying it, and having the intention to someday donate it, this odd job, made possible by good ol’ Craigslist, allowed all my hair donation dreams to come true. See once long hair in photo below, apologies for the selfie.
Hearing some questionable feedback about Locks of Love, a prominent hair donation organization, I decided to go with Wigs 4 Kids per the suggestion of the ALOXXI hair team, the one’s responsible for my new doo and this poor model’s sore cranium.
Apparently, Locks of Love, though a “non-profit,” charges some kids for their wigs, whereas Wigs 4 Kids provides all wigs at no cost, also offering services like counselling and enrichment activities to kids and their families.
Also good to know, Wigs 4 Kids asks for 10” instead of 12” (what I thought I’d have to cut) and will accept hair as short as 7-9” for short hairstyled wigs. I haven’t done a ton of fact checking about the Locks of Love controversy, but since I have’t heard anything bad about Wigs 4 Kids and they had a lenient hair length, I’m gonna err on the side of caution on this one and send my tresses to this Michigan based non-profit instead of Locks of Love. In case you or anyone you know is thinking of donating hair, I thought I’d mention this subject.
Which leads me to my other subject:
Roots and Shoots Urban Mining Workshop
As mentioned at the start of this blog, I’m working towards somehow combining the topics of tap dance, electronic waste recycling, and ape conservation.
A few months ago, a little progress was made when I teamed up with a lovely lass named Emily Duda to host an Urban Mining workshop at Barnes & Noble to raise awareness of the impacts of electronics on ape habitats.
Electronics are produced the expense of Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and humans living in Africa, which is not fair.
To elaborate a bit:
Metals inside our phones, computers, and tablets come from the parts of Africa where Chimps and Gorillas live. These habitats are being damaged through the mining process, endangering the survival of these 2 great species.
People who mine these materials often work in sub-safe conditions, receiving ridiculously low wages for the work put in. Furthermore, the influx of people moving into these previosly untouched areas for work as the electronics industry grows has also paved the way for poachers to come in and snag Chimps and Gorillas for the Illegal Pet and Bushmeat trade.
Its not good.
But the situation can improve…
What can we do, those of us living far away from the conflict?
Its a bit of a hassle to properly dispose of electronics these days, but its important to do so. We must work to bring balance to the force, young padawans.
Though I’m not sure if electronics manufacturers are actually USING recycled materials in new products, a point brought up by a much appreciated skeptic at the workshop, the act of recycling will inevitably make the supply of recycled materials more available for manufacturers to use. It will at least give manufacturers the option to incorporate recycled materials into new products instead of continuously importing raw materials.
Hopefully as time goes on it will become easier for the consumer, me and you, to properly dispose of electronic waste. It’s a dream of mine, to live in a world like that.
For now, you may need to do a little research to find out where to recycle used electronics locally, and you will likely have to take a trip to a store or recycling center to do so. If you need help figuring it out, reach out either through a comment or message on the contact page of this site and I’d be happy to help you navigate.
In New York City, a pilot program has been launched to provide curbside pick-up of electronic waste upon request. I think this is very cool and hope more cities are introducing or already have similar programs. If you know anything on the subject, please share the info, thank you!
Now, a little more about the Barnes and Noble workshop, my first foray into eco-prostelytism:
Our event was part of the Barnes & Noble Bookfair program which allowed us to fundraise in addition to reaching an audience. Our goal was to spread the good word about Electronic Waste Recycling and raise money for Emily’s project: Camp Friendship, an afterschool and summer program that connects city kids with nature.
With a generous donation of toolkits from IFixit, a company working to reduce electronic waste by developing repair manuals and tool-kits for the lay-man, and using a workshop guide provided by FairPhone (which I’ve written about before here), we set up shop in the kids book section of Barnes and Noble and tried to engage as many people as possible in the discussion of whats inside our phones.
In case you’re curious, Emily and I found each-other using a mapping tool available on the Roots and Shoots website which helps ape conservation nerds and Jane Gooddall enthusiasts connect on a local level. Roots and Shoots, by the way, is a program created by the Jane Gooddall Institute to engage kids in conservation, to “raise the next generation of conservation thinkers.”
All in all I don’t think we raised much money for either cause, but we certainly did talk to a handful of people about electronic waste recycling, whats inside phones, and where these materials come from. Hopefully the ideas will sink in to the folks we reached and from there momentum can grow.
Any anyway, the kids who trickled in had a great time taking apart old phones and exploring the insides with the tiny tools donated by IFixit.
The phones used in this workshop were a combination of broken smart phones I was able to collect from my apartment building neighbors and several old school flip phones donated by the Gowanus E-waste warehouse in Brooklyn.
Ultimately, I was hoping to get the kids to connect their phones with the idea that whats inside their phones comes from where Chimpanzees live. Using the FairPhone workshop manual, I used the following graphics to engage in this discussion. It went over way better with the parents…
The whole manual can be found here. I was particularly entertained by one child who was stoked on the silicon number pads inside an old flip phone. I hadn’t thought of if before, but kids these days are missing out on the tactile element of phones because smart phones don’t have buttons, just screens.
Well, thats all I’ve got for now. I’ll leave you with a little something I made out of the workshop remnants.
In recognition of the passage of time and seasons, lets take a moment to admire this pumpkin with a heart on it …
Can you spot the pumpkin I am referring to?
Right there on the bottom row, right side, third pumpkin in. You see it?
Bingo!…a pumpkin with a heart-shaped “blemish” on it’s skin.
An Autumn Miracle, or the work of a garden gnome? Its tough to say…
Until recently, I believed the heart to be some sort of miracle, like the image of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich. What else could explain it? Well, then I stumbled upon a book about gnomes which illuminated a new possibility:
Perhaps this was not a “natural occurrence”, the “hand of God”, or “magic”, but instead the clever, whimsical handiwork of a garden gnome who had been living in the windmill on the property.
Gnomes are known to occupy windmills from time to time, and this pumpkin was grown in close proximity to a windmill, the one pictured blow in fact.
So it could very well have been a gnome.
It is my love of nature that inspires this next topic, please enjoy.
Zero Waste Living
As some of you may know, garbage is an issue close to my heart.
It all started in college. Yep, went to college, fell in love with garbage.
Its taken me a while, but this year I finally made it a goal to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle. I am inspired by two ladies: Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and The Package Free Shop, both women have written extensively on the topic of Zero Waste Living and rely heavily on glamour shots for advertising.
Aside from eliminating plastic utensils and straws (cept the jumbo ones for bubble tea) by switching to Geico…I mean To Go Ware and Simply Straws, I have two recent developments in my Zero Waste game I’d like to share with you in case you were looking for a nudge:
I bought a fancy dental floss called Dental Lace that is made of silk and comes in a refillable glass container. The idea behind this product is that the natural fibers are better for you to slobber all over and the refillable glass containers reduce the waste associated with plastic dental floss containers. I will continue using the fancy dental floss for these reasons, but will admit the floss breaks easier than what I am used to.
Most excitingly, and actually the whole reason for this post, is DIY toothpaste. I ran out of toothpaste and decided to make my own to elimiate toothpaste tubes from my waste stream. Using a recipe I found on a zero waste lifestyle blog called Trash is for Tossers, I am quite satisfied with this DIY alternative.
The recipe is simple:
2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 10-15 drops mint or other essential oil
Tastes a little salty and does not froth, fluxuates between solid and liquid depending on temperature, but all in all, I’d say this toothpaste works great and is a suitable alternative to packaged toothpase. I put mine in a jar leftover from home-made jam my gramma sent me. Yummmm.
Now, go forth and brush!
P.S. For all you tap dancing enthusiasts out there, some tap dancing education for you: an interview with Brenda Buffalino, tap master, maybe the first lady to popularize ladies tap dancing in flat shoes as opposed to high heels (must fact check for you), founder of the tap school I am attending. Thanks Brenda! Follow link below for interview:
I learned about this tea recipe while volunteering at a goat farm in Jerusalem. The farm was within a village called Moshav Zafririm, which was probably once occupied by Palestinians but invaded/apprehended by Israel in 1948 when the country was established. Out with the old, in with the new it would seem.
Unlike in Hebron, there was not trace or retelling of foul play in this village.
It was quiet and rather empty, with no banners or propaganda to be found, just an unmanned military check-point at the base of the village to ward off intruders. Unfortunately I have no photos from the village to share.
The tea on the other hand….
Peace in the Middle East Tea Recipe
This tea was made on a daily basis at the farm and we enjoyed it throughout the day, hot and cold. All the ingredients were picked at the farm or gathered in the nearby hills.
Today I drink it as a reminder of the crazy experience I had in “the Holy Land,” encouragement to continue telling the story, and nourishment for the soul.
Sage “Culinary Sage”
Mint (any variety will work)
Steep a few leaves of geranium, a bunch of sage, and a cluster of mint in hot water for any amount of time, add sugar or honey to taste (or not), and serve hot or cold.
Enjoy the pleasant pink color and floral taste of a tea that will sooth the senses, calm the mind, and bring peace to the middle east in your heart, which reflects the world. Enjoy with friends for greatest therapeutic benefits.
Hello all, happy weekend! And thank you for taking the time to read this. Today I have some reflections for you on word choice:
A few months ago, a chance encounter with a fancy man named Dr. Clotaire Rapaille had my mind a bit blown.
After applying to work for a landscape design company and making friends with the adjoining gallery’s manager, I was invited to attend a luncheon featuring Dr. Rapaille and a few other folks associated with the gardening company. Not quite sure what I was getting into, I jumped right in–just like Goosey here…
With a striking presence and refined air about him, I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. Rapaille began the meeting by asking all of us to introduce ourselves. I was surprised he would even bother to get to know any of us ancillary people personally.
After introdcing myself as an “environmental activist,” he immediately stopped and asked why I would use those words to introduce myself. Didn’t I think that was a rather negative way to characterize myself?
Holy balls. He was right. Activist does have somewhat of a feather ruffling air about it (think: eco-terrorist)…BUT its what I learned to call myself in school and thought was an appropriate title for what I do…I’d never thought to question the label before.
In any case, he had a point, and for a few moments we brainstormed other lablels. I came up with Environmental Spokesperson, Environmenal Advocate, and “Lorax” after he turned down Conservationist and something related to sustainability. Who wants to merely conserve when we could flourish and grow? This was the Doc’s point.
All in all, I found the whole converstaion quite interesting and mind boggling after so many years of thinking a certain way. If this type of thinking could be applied to Environmental Studies coursework, I think it would make the discipline easier to swallow and produce less anxiety for everyone…oh my nerves:
Beyond the activist label, Dr. Rapaille went on to discuss word choice as a tool in marketing, specifically for the landscaping company. He highlighted words such as growth, and advised us to shy away from words such as sustainability and conservation, since these terms suggest limits. Very interesting.
So, after all this, I wonder, what can I say about myself now? WHAT AM I?
I suppose now I’ll consider myself an environmental advocate.
I’m still searching for a replacement work for sustainability….any ideas??
Think about it as the word pops up in your life.
I hope this article in some way leads you to re-think the words you use to label yourself and encourages you to swap out any stale or limiting words. Just a fun exercize.
Back when I was at the goat farm in Tenessee, I took an online class taught by Jane Gooddall through a program called Masterclass. The class was about conservation and chimpanzee behavior and was a-ok. If you’re into chimpanzees and want to learn about conservation through a fireside chat-like series with Jane Gooddall, I’d highly recommend this class.
The main highlight for me was being able to connect with other ape enthusiasts through the class’ forum. I even bought a painting from one of my classmates, a New Zeland based artist named Deborah Moss. The piece I bought is similar to this one:
One really cool thing about Deborah Moss is her business model. In honor of my purchase, Deborah planted a native tree, an act which supports ecological health and gives back to the planet. Oh so nice! For me, you, her, the bees…and everyone!
In case you are curious, Deborah planted a Kowhai tree which is native to New Zeland and produces yellow flowers, which birds and pollinators love. See below:
So lovely. Thank you Deborah!
Now, for my main point:
Apes and Palm Oil: How YOU can save orangutans with your groceries.
Through Masterclass, I was also able to connect with Mandy Lee, an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Taiwan who had some interesting knowledge to share about apes and palm oil plantations. I was able to find out a little more through a personal interview.
Interview with Mandy from Masterclass
First let me start by summarizing the issue surrounding Orangutans and Palm Oil. For a more in depth explaination, please visit The 12 Days of Peatmas.
Here is my brief explanation of the situation at hand:
Orangutans, the gingerest of the Great Apes, are native to Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests. Besides zoos, this is their only home in the whole wide world. See map below:
Orangutans spend most of their time up in the trees, which is why deforestation is so threatening to their survival. No trees=no food+no home for orangutans, and no home=no more orangutans. Easy math.
So, why deforest the only place in the world where Orangutans live?
dun dun dun…..
Palm Oil comes from Palm Oil Nut Trees, and is an ingredient used in an ever increasing percentage of food and cosmetic products on the market today. Over 50% according to most sources.
Below is a display of some common products containing Palm Oil. For a more comprehensive list, click here. Then, check out this page for a list of sneaky Palm Oil synonmyns that you will also find on food labels (eg. Palmolein, Octyl Palmitate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Elaeis Guineensis).
My hope is that you will use this information to make informed decisions when you are grocery shopping and avoid products that contain palm oil for the sake of conservation. I’m saying bye bye to Nutella for this reason**tear**
So, palm oil is in everything, what’s the problem?
Unfortunately for orangutans (and other species), the fertile soil and climate of the rainforest habitat provides excellent growing conditions for palm oil nut trees, which look like this:
Coupled with the inexpensive price of land in Indonesia and Malaysia, this makes orangutan habitat an ideal location for palm oil nut tree plantations, see what was once a dense patch of forest, now cleared, below:
Fueled by a desire to make major moo-lah, farmers and large corporations (like Nestlé)* have thus begun to buy up and develop large expanses of orangutan habitat, clear-cutting and burning existing forest to make way for palm oil nut tree plantations without a care in the world for environmental impacts including habitat and species destruction. Bravo industry. Love the short-sighted, linear thinking. Just great.
Luckily, there are some companies taking strides to promote “sustainably harvested palm oil,” partnering with farmers who engage in less destructive growing practices. Unfortunately, according tosome sources, the regulations are difficult to enforce and not 100% trustworthy.
Similar to the Organics label, this is a matter of trusting the government and regulatory agencies to do their job…which we all know is like trusting your brother to flush the toilet after #2…sometimes he does it, sometimes he don’t.
Regardless, if you are buying a product containing palm oil, look for these labels, for at least these companies are making an effort to be perceived as sustainable and furthering the movement, one would hope:
*For the record, Nestlé has taken strides towards sustainability after some “bad press” exposed their destructive Palm-oil related practices. You can read all about their newfound sustainability efforts on their website. Keep in mind this is information Nestlé is writing about itself.
And now, a little about Mandy Lee, my Masterclass-mate, the inspiration for this article…
At 30 years old, Mandy, a freelance translator and English teacher in Taiwan, was feeling the push to “do something meaningful” wither her life and decided to pursue a lifelong passion for wildlife by volunteering with APE Malaysia, which she found via online research.
Through the 28 day program called “Orangutan Encounters,” Mandy split her time between working on enrichment activities for rescued Orangutans at Zoo Negara, learning about their incredible intelligence and behaviors, and planting trees at the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo.
During her time at the zoo, Mandy had a bandage on one of her fingers and had an amzing interaction with one of the orangutans, who recognized her finger as being hurt and kissed her own finger while pointing to Mandy’s. If that is not a symbol of empathy, a true sign of intelligence, I dont know what is!
At the Kinabatangan wildlife sanctuary, Mandy’s group helped plant trees to restore land that has been damaged by Palm Oil production, ensuring a home for orangutans and other unique critters now and into the future.
What a wonderful and meaningful way to vacation! Thank you for sharing your story Mandy!
The following are links to more information about Apes and Palm Oil, provided by Mandy:
I also wanted to note that after her volunteer experience, aside from becoming more conscious of palm oil and avoiding products that contain it, Mandy has been inspired to live a more sustainable lifestyle. She has given up plastic straws and switched to re-usable food wrapping products like bees-wrap, replacing the need for single-use products like saran wrap. So cool Mandy, way to go!
Ok, that’s about it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments! This is a deep issue and I’d be happy to explore the topic more.
I will leave you with a photo: me, bundled up at the beach in New York in March. Miss you, California!
I am researching places you can go to visit/volunteer with Chimpanzees. Not saying I’m going, but just looking into it a lil’ bit.
One place thats popped up a few times in my internet research is the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. It is a German organization, me rikey. It is in Zambia. And there is some connection with Jane Gooddall but I don’t know yet and I’m too lazy right now to look into that.
Here is a video of someone else’s time there. Looks like they get HANDS ON contact with the chimps, which is super cool because at one point I was looking into volunteering with Koko the Gorilla, who lives in Woodside, Ca, surprisingly, and the deal would have been that I would cut up and prepare Koko’s food, but I wouldn’t get to come into contact with her…maybe not even see her? I think it was the former, but anyway my point is, most Ape Conservation programs do not let you come in contact with the apes, for health and safety reasons, which I understand. But COOL that Chimfunshi might let you.
Another organization is in Guinea, West Africa, called Project Primates. It is a French organization and not as expensive as other programs I’ve seen. You have to pay for airfare there, then $125/month…and work every day from sun-up to sun-down. I don’t understand why they would charge someone to work their ass off from sun-up to sun-down for 6 months straight, but a lot of other programs ask for much more so this looks good. Their website is: https://www.projetprimates.com/en/