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Primate Conservation in Borneo
Beginning next week, Audubon Zoo staff member Brenda Walkenhorst of New Orleans (that’s me!) will study primate conservation strategies on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. The graduate courses from Miami University's Project Dragonfly are based on Earth Expeditions, which has engaged more than 1,400 people since 2004 in firsthand educational and scientific research at critical conservation field sites in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas.
That first paragraph was a press release about me and my exciting adventure to Borneo. On Monday I will be traveling alone around the world to meet up with 20 classmates to study primate conservation and see orangutans in the wild. This class is made up of teachers and zoo staff from around the U.S. For 10 days we are immersed in the community based conservation programs of Sabah, Malaysia. We will do field research, meet conservationists, follow primates in the wild and spend time with the native communities that are seeking ways to save the orangutans and others endangered species of the Borneo rainforests.
I have gained great personal experiences from my Earth Expeditions (this is my third), but more importantly I have brought back knowledge and partnerships that help me better understand the conservation threats and possible solutions to preserve endangered species and educate the public. This trip is particularly important to my work this coming year at the Audubon Zoo. Our zoo is embarking on some wonderful improvements and additions for our Asian Domain. My experience in the South Eastern Asian rainforests will help me design educational programs and guest experiences that will be authentic and potentially partner with the communities that are in the natural habitats trying so hard to protect their wildlife and culture.
I hope to see orangutans, large invertebrates and pygmy elephants in the next three weeks. I also expect to survive leeches, fish head curry and cultural challenges. This is an adventure of a lifetime and I will share it with you when I return.