Adopting orangutans leads Kiwi woman to helping Borneo's orphaned elephants video

Deb Mair / YouTube

Lower Hutt woman Debbie Mair is heading over to Borneo to check on orphan elephants.

A Lower Hutt woman is eager to make sure elephants at a burnt wildlife sanctuary are ok.

Poachers set Trusan Kinabatangan Forest Reserve and Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo on fire on July 22.  

"The sooner I get out there and see what happens on the ground the better," Debbie Mair said.

Debbie Mair is working to find a economically viable milk product from NZ cow's milk for orphaned pygmy elephants in Borneo.

Debbie Mair is working to find a economically viable milk product from NZ cow's milk for orphaned pygmy elephants in Borneo.

She had already been planning to go back to see if a trial of orphaned elephants being fed on New Zealand cow milk was successful.

The Rotarian first meet the two elephants Jimbo and Tun Tan two years ago when she was representing the Rotary Action Group for Endangered Species. 

Since then she has spent the past 18 months convincing Fonterra NZ to get involved in producing a milk powder especially for the elephants.

An elephant in Borneo.

An elephant in Borneo.

"I spent $3000 US [$4250 NZ] when I was over there buying up all of the local milk powder for the elephants," Debbie Mair said.

"[Fonterra] has been fantastic and given me some milk powder to run a six week trial." 

While in Borneo she bonded with the six-month and nine-month-old elephants. She will meet them again  when she returns on July 29. 

This trip to will be to collate the trial data to see if it was a success.

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If it was, it would save the organisation that was now looking after 16 orphaned elephants, whose parents were shot for raiding palm oil plantations because they were starving, between $80,000 and $100,000 per year on milk powder.

Fonterra global sponsorship manager Kane Simcock said it would also be a great opportunity for the dairy cooperative to offer the organisation "competitive pricing while being involved in a great conservation project".

"If the trial is successful we will discuss a supply agreement with Rotary to purchase larger amounts of product for their on-going work," he said.

Mair originally went to Borneo to adopt an orangutan and look at the damage the palm oil industry was doing to wild animals in the area. There are more than 1000 orphaned orangutans living in rescue and rehabilitation centres and many need to be finically supported through 'adoptions'.

Kiwis can also help the animals over them by visiting animals sanctuaries and not buying products with palm oil in them. She had an app on her phone which could tell her what products didn't have it in them. 

The former policewoman from Edinburgh was involved in three international Rotary projects. 

Last year as the Director of Special Projects at Rotary Hutt City she looked at how to end the Ethiopia's fatal drought. 

 - Stuff


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