April 8, 2011

Your Wildlife Questions Answered!

BTBW_blogA while back, we invited two world famous animal experts to answer YOUR questions about orangutans and elephants. They are both featured in the IMAX movie, Born to be Wild 3D coming to theaters today, and they have a lot to say about saving the planet and the beautiful creatures that live here. Read on. . .

First, your questions about orangutans for Dr. Galdikas. . .

firestar28 asks: How long does an orangutan live? Also, what is it like to feed them? 
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: We don’t know for sure how long wild orangutans usually live, but the maximum is probably up to 60 or 70 years. More likely, orangutans die in their 50s but we really don’t know. Orangutans really like to eat so it feels very good to feed them as they appreciate it very much!

fireflamer5 asks: What do the orangutans do with opposable thumbs?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: They do many of the same things that we do: pick things up, hold things, grab onto things.

Andrea asks: What are some orangutan instincts?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: Orangutans are born with some of the same instincts as humans, such as suckling and grasping. They also have instincts that encourage them to build nests and eat colorful things (such as ripe fruits).

RGirl620 asks: What is it like working with the animals?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: Working with orangutans is rewarding but also difficult. It is an amazing experience to look into the eyes of an orangutan and to be able to care for them. On the other hand, it is very difficult to provide orphaned orangutans with exactly the same care that their orangutan mother would have given them.

willatreewillatree asks: Can some wild animals be tame enough that they act like pets?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: Wild orangutans are generally quiet and gentle creatures but they are quite leery of humans. It takes many months of following wild orangutans before they ignore human presence. Even then, however, the orangutan will stay up in the forest canopy and not allow any human to get too close. In order for an orangutan to be unafraid of humans and completely tame like a pet, his or her mother must be killed and he or she taken and raised by humans.

xycodie asks: If you have an orangutan, are they still wild even if you had them since they were a baby?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: Usually orangutans who are raised by humans since infancy become very tame until they grow up. While some females remain tame in adulthood, many males become difficult and “wild” as they approach adolescence.

Josephine asks: What is the most AMAZING incident that ever happened to you?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: Two wild adult males fighting right next to me and totally ignoring me as though I were a tree stump.

cnahk asks: What are some dangers you have experienced working with animals?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas:
Probably the most dangerous part of working with orangutans in Borneo is the threat of parasites, malaria, viruses, and other things that can be transmitted by mosquitoes and rainforest insects. There are also poisonous snakes. I once had an experience with a cobra where it brushed my ankle as I was walking at dusk without a flashlight. The cobra seemed as confused as me! Person-eating crocodiles exist on our river and have killed two people in recent years. For this reason, I do not swim in our river.

StarMagic asks: What inspired you to be what you are now? What would you say to other people that wanted to be just like you?
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas: I think my love of nature and trees and my deep interest in orangutans inspired me to be what I am now. Follow your dreams and the rest will follow!

And now, your questions about elephants for Dame Daphne. . . BTBW1_Resized

51dotfeg asks: Have you ever been splashed with mud by an elephant?
Dame Daphne: Yes, many many times. When one raises the elephant orphans, who are just like human children, and who love playing in the mud, one must expect to be splashed liberally with mud.

HermioneHJG asks: How are elephants endangered? How can we help these poor animals?
Dame Daphne: Elephants are endangered because their ivory tusks are in demand in countries such as China and Japan. Another factor is the increasing human population in areas the elephants have occupied for millennia, which is denying them the space they need – because elephants need a great deal of space. Global warming is changing the environment in Africa which is becoming drier and hotter – forests are being cut down, rivers and lakes drying up, and rainfall becoming erratic. Such factors affect the environment adversely and work against the elephants.
Everyone can help the elephants by persuading people never to buy anything made of ivory, and bringing pressure on politicians to ban the sale of ivory at the Convention for Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Conserving long lived animals such as elephants also involves a lot of money, and everyone can raise money to help protect elephants within their natural environments.

cnahk asks: What are some dangers you have experienced working with animals?
Dame Daphne: I was thrown by a wild elephant in l994. At the time I never thought a wild elephant would approach a human, but this elephant tossed me aside when I stood in the way of her herd. She did not actually want to hurt me – only move me – but she was not used to moving a human rather than another elephant and used too much force. I fell on some jagged rocks, and broke my leg. After that the elephant came to try and lift me by putting her tusks beneath me, but when I shouted, “NO! NO!” she left me. Had she wanted, she could have killed me with just one swipe of her trunk.

monabellarocker asks: Why did you choose to help elephants?
Dame Daphne: I never chose to help only elephants. I have helped many other species in my time, but elephants have been the greatest challenge. When one decides to help the elephant orphans, it involves a lifetime, because an elephant is not grown until age 20 and has a potential lifespan of 70 plus years. Many of the orphaned elephants you see on the IMAX film will hopefully outlive me by many years.

Suze59 asks: When did you know you wanted to do what you do? Were there ever any moments that you wanted to quit? Do you have any tips for kids who want to do what you do?
Dame Daphne: I have always loved animals, so from a very early age I have wanted to be with animals and to help them whenever possible. There are always heartbreaks involved, when tears are shed and one is emotionally devastated, having struggled to save an orphan, and the orphan dies in your arms. One loses a loved one, and that is always very difficult, but there are others that will need your help and care, so to quit would be a betrayal of their trust.
Everyone and anyone can help animals by giving an animal a quality of life, and speaking out for them whenever necessary, especially fighting human related cruelty to animals.

OK, I am totally inspired to see Born to be Wild, and to help all the world’s animals! Click here for more about the movie and about these two amazing women.

image from kids.scholastic.comSonja, STACKS Staffer

Photos and interviews courtesy of Warner Bros.

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  1. pinkblack

    i love blogs but how do you chat with your friends plz help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply