Al Jazeera highlight: Meet 'The Orangutan Whisperer'

The Orangutan Whisperer on 101 East

An Australian zoologist is reintroducing orphaned and abused orangutans back into the Indonesian forest with a groundbreaking "Jungle School," according to an upcoming documentary on Al Jazeera.

101 East: The Orangutan Whisperer treks deep into the Sumatran jungle to meet Leif Cocks and witness his life-long quest to save these endangered creatures.

"This is what the project's about. It's having orangutans, which were either doomed to death or a life in miserable captivity, now living free, independent lives in the forest... and doing well," says Cocks.

With forests disappearing at an alarming rate, Cocks is leasing land from the Indonesian government to ensure orangutans have somewhere safe to live.

"My goal is to save enough habitat that we can have 8 000 orangutans protected in reserves that we are looking after. And that will secure the species. That's my goal. That's at least a decent way of spending one's life."

The former zoo keeper has introduced almost 200 rescued orangutans back into the forest in Central Sumatra after training them to fend for themselves in "Jungle School."

Meanwhile, in Western Sumatra, Cocks and his colleagues believe they may have discovered a new species of orangutan, which they've named the Tapanuli Orangutan. It was previously thought that there were only two species - the Sumatran and the Borneo orangutan.

"It's always wonderful to connect with another person and in my viewpoint orangutans are among the most noble persons on the planet today," says Cocks.

The Orangutan Whisperer screens on Al Jazeera English on Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 1830 SAST on 101 East, Al Jazeera's multi-award-winning, weekly current affairs programme focusing on a diverse range of stories and investigations from across Asia and the Pacific.

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