Lending them a hand

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2011, 12:00am


Orang-utans are often smuggled from Indonesia's forests. They are transported through Hong Kong onto the mainland to serve as pets or exotic food. Their habitat has also dwindled so there are fewer apes in the wild than ever before.

Last month, 16 Island School students volunteered to help rehabilitate some confiscated animals at Tasikoki Animal Rescue Centre in North Sulawesi.

Staff at the animal sanctuary look after orang-utans, sun bears, leopards, turtles and other wildlife recovered from poachers. Several are released back into the wild.

The Hong Kong students helped feed the animals at 6am. They cleaned cages and scrubbed floors.

'At Tasikoki, the animals always come first,' says Jessica Tham, a Year 11 student. 'We had to make sure they were well-fed before we could have our own breakfast.'

The team spent afternoons making enrichment toys for animals.

Another student, Louise Hutereau, made a toy for orang-utans by boring a hole in a coconut. She stuffed it with their favourite treats: papaya and banana. The primates enjoy teasing their food out of such toys.

On some nights, with torches in hand, the students helped turtles back into the sea. 'It is important to try to keep turtles safe from poachers,' Jessica says.

The students saw plenty of evidence of cruelty to animals. They heard of a macaque that lost a limb in a struggle with smugglers. They also learned of orang-utans languishing in homes as pets.

They returned to Hong Kong with renewed passion to help animals.