Australian Brothers Defending Biodiversity
Daniel Clarke and his family had a deep respect for fellow Australian Steve Irwin—the crocodile hunter. They were greatly saddened when Irwin died from a stingray barb in 2006. Shortly thereafter, 10-year-old Daniel watched Irwin’s production about orangutan conservation, which sparked a passion, vision and mission.
Clarke has cerebral palsy and has spent most of his life in a wheelchair. His condition never kept him from thinking big and thinking positive.
“Steve Irwin was my inspiration,” Daniel said. “I was devastated when he died.”
In 2007, the Starlight Foundation granted Daniel a wish. Everyone expected him to ask for a trip to Disneyland or a new car to carry his wheelchair.
“I want to save the orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra,” Daniel said.
The Starlight Foundation met to discuss the impact of Daniel’s wish. After several days, The Foundation called to explain that they never had a child who wanted such a selfless wish.
The Starlight Foundation tried to accommodate Daniel’s wish, but saving an endangered species that lives in the jungles of Indonesia and Malaysia is not a simple task for a young man or a million men, especially when the species in question is in the crosshairs of agricultural expansion, logging and corruption. Given the complexity of the challenge, Daniel compromised and took a trip with his family to the Australia Zoo, which ignited Daniel’s passion for orangutan conservation even more.
Daniel’s family found The Orangutan Project (TOP), which “adopts” orangutans for $55 per year. Daniel adopted an orangutan and encouraged others to do the same. He then decided to raise $10,000 to help save orangutans and their habitat. He spoke with his school principal and developed an event where students recruited sponsors to pay them for every lap completed around the sports field (on foot or on bike). Daniels’s first event raised $5,500 for TOP, while generating more orangutan adoptions. TOP named Daniel as the National Children’s Ambassador. Daniel wore that title like a crown as he kept generating news and support across Australia and around the world.
In 2008, The Starlight Foundation invited Daniel and his family to see a Rugby Union Football match between the Wallabies and Wales. He met the team in the dressing room after the match and he also met former Prime Minister John Howard. Mr. Howard knelt down beside Daniel’s wheelchair as he explained his quest to save the orangutan and its habitat. Six weeks later, Daniel received a letter from the Prime Minister. He pledged $500,000 over four years to an American Non-Government Organization to help save the orangutan.
Later in 2008, Daniel and William travelled to Borneo to see orangutans in the wild and in rehabilitation. They wrote a book about the experience that is generating funding and support for orangutan conservation.
Tears In The Jungle: A Children’s Adventure to Save the Orangutan is a valuable teaching resource for primary, secondary and universities. Readers will be inspired at Daniel and William’s passion to save the orangutans. These extraordinary brothers tell the story of their trek through the jungles of Borneo to see orangutans and the people who are defending this endangered species.
The Clarke brothers have raised close to $1 million for orangutan conservation. They have sponsored more than 111,000 acres of orangutan habitat and they have helped adopt more than 100 orangutans. Money raised through book sales supports The Orangutan Project, Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia, and Orangutan Foundation International. These organizations focus on orangutan rescue, rehabilitation and release programs as well as habitat protection.
The highly endangered orangutan lives in the vanishing rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. It’s estimated that only about 50,000 of the great apes remain in the wild after their habitat has been slashed and burned for agribusinesses, especially palm oil, across Southeast Asia. Without aggressive rainforest conservation, orangutans will be essentially extinct in the wild within a few decades. Saving the orangutan can help save Sumatran tigers, elephants and many other endangered species.
Read The Full Story About The Clarke Family and Orangutan Conservation