A HUSBAND and wife teaching duo from Wirral have added their voices to a campaign to save orangutans from extinction after witnessing firsthand how their habitat was being destroyed.

David Croucher and wife Sarah were staggered by the huge amount of rainforest which has been razed to the ground as commercial palm oil producers have taken over swathes of the landscape in Borneo.

Now the couple have pledged their support for Chester Zoo’s Go Orange for Orangutans 2014 fundraising appeal.

The goal is to raise £15,000 to help re-plant a key area of forestry to prevent orangutan groups in Sabah, Borneo from becoming segregated from one another.

Chester Zoo is encouraging schools, businesses, community groups, and individuals to hold orange-themed fundraising activities throughout October and donate the proceeds to Go Orange for Orangutans 2014.

The idea is to re-introduce some of the diversity supplied by natural rainforest, which supports critically endangered orangutans and a wealth of other rare species: mammals, insects, birds, flora and fauna.

David and Sarah had no hesitation in getting behind the campaign. They are both zoo members but their determination to help was increased tenfold following a once in a life time trip to Borneo in August to celebrate David’s 40th birthday.

While there they traversed breathtakingly high rope bridges, visited the infamous caves where the nests to make birds nest soup are collected and they felt incredibly lucky to see and take photographs of an orangutan in the wild - an extremely rare occurrence. 

Wirral Globe:
One of the orangutans in Borneo.

Although tourists are welcomed at sanctuaries such as Sepilok Orangutan Rehabititation Centre - which David and Sarah visited - few people get to see elusive orangutans in the wild.

Sarah, who teaches at Clare Mount School in Moreton, said: “We were on a boat travelling down the Kinabatangan river.

“We saw a whole array of fabulous wildlife including proboscis monkeys, reptiles, amphibians and stunning hornbills but we had been told we would be extremely unlikely to see a wild orangutan, especially at that time of year.

“Even the guides only see two or three in a month and so we were amazed when towards the end of the boat trip we spotted an orangutan in the forest on shore. 

“I was so excited I didn’t know whether to take photographs or just stop and enjoy the moment. It was an extraordinary experience, we felt so privileged to see it and it really brought home to us what an uncertain future this species has.”

More than 80% of the habitat once occupied by orangutans in Borneo has been eradicated so that now, in Sabah, they have been pushed back to a thin strip of forestry along the riverside. 

David, who teaches at Devonshire Park Primary School in Birkenhead, said: “I simply could not believe how much of the landscape has been taken over by commercial developers.

“We had read about it in various news items, websites and the zoo magazine, but we had never fully grasped the scale of how much rainforest has been lost.

“Seeing it for ourselves was a real and shocking eye-opener. At one stage we drove for six hours in a virtually straight line from one part of Borneo to another and saw nothing but commercially grown palm trees. To think that all of that land was once covered by rainforest was staggering.”

Since returning from Borneo David has delivered an assembly to pupils at Devonshire Park, telling them about what he learned on his visit.

  • To find out more about how you can help Go Orange for Orangutans 2014, click here