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WILDLIFE HEROES

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It seems that every time I pick up a magazine, or visit the Web, another article appears about a species that has gone extinct.  We are losing our precious wildlife all over the globe at an alarming rate...and very soon, sooner than we think, we will have only pictures and memories of the incredible wildlife that once roamed our free spaces on earth.

One of the places I visit often, when I am home from Africa, is the San Diego Zoo.  My favorite exhibits are the orangutan and gorilla exhibits.  I have spent countless hours observing each of these intelligent creatures interact with one another.  Just the other day, as I was observing the orangutans, I watched an adult male play with a young Siamang (a gibbon belonging to the ape family whose chief characteristic distinguishing them from monkeys is the absence of a tail).  The gentleness displayed by the male orangutan was fascinating to all who observed him.  He knew not to pull the young gibbon’s arm too hard, and when to let go.  It was a joy observing the simple interaction that occurred between two different species.  As I watched, I remembered the article I had just read about the decline of orangutans in Malaysia and Indonesia.  Their numbers have declined sharply, especially on the island of Sumatra.  A recent survey found that the orangutan population there had dropped almost 14 percent since 2004!  Illegal logging and the expansion of palm oil plantations are the primary cause.  Can you imagine a world without orangutans? 

Through the years, in and out of Africa, I have met many wildlife heroes.  All have dedicated their lives to the preservation of wildlife.  I have been immensely impressed by all of these individuals and the work they do, but two stand out from the rest.  One is no longer with us, and the other continues to spread the word about her beloved chimpanzees.  Of course, I speak of Steve Irwin and Dr. Jane Goodall.

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