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Saving Orangutans. Leif Cocks, Part 2
Episode 16811th April 2022 • Your Positive Imprint • Catherine Praiswater
00:00:00 00:23:21

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Saving the life of an individual orangutan is a lifetime positive achievement of immeasurable value. Biologist Leif Cocks began observing and interacting with orangutans as a zookeeper with the Perth Zoo. Today he studies and interrelates with orangutans in the wild within their own habitat in the rainforest. Journey with Leif as he recounts his own actions of saving orangutans back into the wild.

Transcripts

Catherine:

thank you so much for listening to all of these amazing and exceptional, positive imprints.

Catherine:

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Positive achievements.

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Exceptional people rise to the challenge.

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Your positive imprint.

Catherine:

What's your PI.

Catherine:

This is part two with Leif Cocks.

Catherine:

Saving the orangutans.

Catherine:

Leif Cocks began his career with the Perth zoo in Perth, Australia, where he met, observed and interacted with many of the animals.

Catherine:

Through his zoological journey he discovered orangutans and their intelligence.

Catherine:

He has several academic qualifications as a zoologist and biologist.

Catherine:

His research is peer reviewed.

Catherine:

He has worked and continues to work with species management programs worldwide while continuing campaigning and lobbying for animal welfare in the wild, including the

Catherine:

He is dedicated to habitat protection.

Catherine:

Leif has a passion and he says it best.

Catherine:

My work with the zoo had instilled within me an iron clad determination to make a practical and lasting difference for all orangutans and other beings on the planet.

Catherine:

I am so honored and so thrilled to bring Leif Cocks and his positive imprints to you.

Catherine:

Leif, welcome to the show.

Leif Cocks:

Thank you.

Leif Cocks:

It's wonderful to be here..

Catherine:

Oh, thank you.

Catherine:

I'm excited.

Catherine:

You're bringing a wealth of knowledge not just knowledge, but research.

Catherine:

You started so young with your journey.

Leif Cocks:

I've working with 15 orangutans, as you mentioned, and then discovered not only that, they're wonderful beings, but the self-aware persons

Leif Cocks:

that don't belong in captivity.

Leif Cocks:

In fact, they don't do well in captivity and they can only thrive while living in their own culture and communities in the wild.

Leif Cocks:

And of course at the same time, discovering that they're critically endangered species being driven to extinction by having them individually slaughtered on a mass scale.

Leif Cocks:

And, and therefore that started on my journey to, save the orangutans, but not only in doing that, helping save other living beings, such as tigers, elephants, indigenous human communities.

Leif Cocks:

And of course, protecting the habitat is one of the most effective things we can do to mitigate climate

Catherine:

change.

Catherine:

Change.

Leif Cocks:

What we're seeing is every civilization, from south America or the Mesopotamia, it's actually fallen down through ecological destruction of its immediate environment, ; agriculture

Leif Cocks:

We're seeing it and we're doing this on a global scale and we're just following the same traditional pattern, watching our civilization slowly reach the limits of this

Leif Cocks:

And we're going to collapse in on itself, but we have the opportunity one for a better word, spiritual and moral evolution.

Leif Cocks:

So we have as human beings, this capacity, to come out of that tribal framework, we have this opportunity now.

Leif Cocks:

So, we all should just give it our best shot.

Catherine:

An orangutan lived during world war II.

Catherine:

She suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Catherine:

P.T.S.D.

Leif Cocks:

Yeah.

Leif Cocks:

Mawas.

Leif Cocks:

Yeah.

Leif Cocks:

So that's one of the things that goes into orangutan rehabilitation.

Leif Cocks:

You have to repair their poor little minds.

Leif Cocks:

As we know with human beings, we cannot learn, socialize properly and become independent unless our minds are in good, healthy condition.

Leif Cocks:

And if you've seen your mother killed and eaten in front of you, you can imagine for that poor baby orangutan is the most horrific destruction of their little minds you can experience.

Leif Cocks:

Mawas is a classic example of how persons suffer and how mental trauma can affect them

Leif Cocks:

their entire life.

Leif Cocks:

Mawas was Sultan of Johor's, personal pet, in Johor state just across the Strait into Singapore, which was heavily bombed and taken by the Japanese in in WWII.

Leif Cocks:

And so she got bombed during this period.

Leif Cocks:

The story is, the superintendent back in 1968, he went and got the first orangutans to start the orangutan colony in, in the city

Leif Cocks:

was taking Atjeh and Puan to start the colony and found Mawas in the personal garden of the Sultan of Johor sitting in a cage.

Leif Cocks:

So ask to take her too., but she'd been traumatized.

Leif Cocks:

And so I was looking after her until she died.

Leif Cocks:

She was oldest orangutan to have lived when she died.

Leif Cocks:

But one of the tragic things is they started this Australia day sky show where they basically had planes flying around and then, boom, boom, boom,

Leif Cocks:

And so every Australia day I would spend the night sitting with her and, , and keeping her calm and giving her that love and support to get her through the whole literary, reliving the bombings and WWII.

Leif Cocks:

I think that story just lets us know that the, the level of suffering poor orangutans go through, even when they do survive and how that trauma just like in human beings can last an entire lifetime.

Leif Cocks:

And I hope in some ways that story instills a level of compassion and understanding.

Leif Cocks:

One of the sayings that comes to mind is, God forgive them, they know not what they do; people killing and eating animals

Leif Cocks:

Destroying the rainforest.

Leif Cocks:

If they only could feel like it's a fraction of the suffering, they're causing that they would just be so aborrhent, you know, about their own actions,

Catherine:

yeah.

Catherine:

Well, that was an incredible story.

Catherine:

Mawas incredible story.

Catherine:

You took that time to stay with her, during that the Australian, I guess it's a celebration of sorts, but with

Leif Cocks:

the the 4th of July in America at the same time.

Catherine:

Okay.

Catherine:

This was in the 1990s and this orangutan came from world war two with these reactions

Catherine:

and the fear.

Catherine:

I agree with you that higher intelligence is there within the orangutan and so many other animals that we haven't done enough observations on.

Catherine:

There are just so many stories about the different orangutans that you have had a relationship with.

Leif Cocks:

There are so many stories, it's been a lifetime of spending time with these wonderful beings.

Leif Cocks:

It's been a privilege, I've been an Orangutang mother, which is obviously an unusual thing for a middle-aged man to say, but, so it's been a wonderful, and it's been one long, strange trip its been and the experience.

Leif Cocks:

One of the ones that I talk about in my book, which I think often, people, when they're reading a book, tell me they cry at this particular, this story.

Leif Cocks:

I had to go find a new male for my female I had like 10 females.

Leif Cocks:

And they need the new, a new male because all the males were their sons to breed with.

Leif Cocks:

I used to be a small population biologist.

Leif Cocks:

And so we found two orangutans in America, which should be a match for my females.

Leif Cocks:

So I went to look with one of these research centers, these horrible research centers.

Leif Cocks:

And at the time, for example, they were getting chimpanzees to smoke crack to see the effect , of crack on the babies.

Leif Cocks:

And so that kind of stuff, and normally wouldn't let a person like me in, but they had this male orangutan there that was the perfect match and they didn't want to have orangutans anymore.

Leif Cocks:

So I went into this and saw it.

Leif Cocks:

And next door, there was another orangutan that came out of its concrete Hubble.

Leif Cocks:

And I couldn't tell when it moved towards me, whether it was dragging its feet or walking, cause it was so fat and it started sign language to me.

Leif Cocks:

And I, I asked the keeper there.

Leif Cocks:

I said, oh, what's he saying?

Leif Cocks:

He said, oh, we don't know.

Leif Cocks:

We don't speak sign language he's Chantek the sign language experiment from the seventies.

Leif Cocks:

, we've got no idea.

Leif Cocks:

He just signs to us and so I actually found out what he was signing.

Leif Cocks:

He was signing "get the keys, let's go."

Leif Cocks:

And so he was trying to communicate to, to help me get out of here.

Leif Cocks:

And coincidentally, I did it in my own small way.

Leif Cocks:

I was staying at a Zookeeper's house because when I travel, I normally stay at people's houses.

Leif Cocks:

or stay in the zookeeper house at Atlanta zoo and I said, oh, look, I found Chantek the famous sign language orangutan.

Leif Cocks:

I'm going to ring up my director back at the zoo and say, look, I'll grab the other orangutan but can I grab him too?

Leif Cocks:

I know we can't breed from him, but we can save him from this.

Leif Cocks:

So the keeper said, oh, look, Leif has found Chantek.

Leif Cocks:

No way the Australians going to take that orangutan nationalism coming in, but so he did ring up the center.

Leif Cocks:

"I want the orangutan."

Leif Cocks:

And he basically got taken to Atlanta zoo.

Leif Cocks:

It's still in captivity, but well, you know, light years of increased welfare and Lyn Miles the, the lady who originally trained him and taught him back at the university, got to connect with him again.

Leif Cocks:

She wasn't allowed into the research center.

Leif Cocks:

And so w it was, uh, not ultimately the happy fairytale ending that we hope that all orangutans can go back to sanctuaries or in the wild, but it certainly

Catherine:

To get them out of there.

Catherine:

And so now in 1998, I think it is, you moved again forward with what was calling you.

Catherine:

Leif answered a call to protect and free orangutans through The Orangutan Project.

Leif Cocks:

Yeah.

Leif Cocks:

And the Orangutan Project started in 1998 and now we've got chapters all around Europe, Canada, United States, New Zealand, Australia.

Leif Cocks:

We funnel that money and we have the strategic plan, which everyone can download from our website of what we're going to do and how we're going to do it.

Leif Cocks:

Save the eight ecosystems of the right type, shape, and size of rainforest to bring orangutans, each species and subspecies orangutan through the extinction crisis, as well as the elephants and the tigers.

Leif Cocks:

We've got to have separate projects for them to bring them under the umbrella of orangutan conservation.

Leif Cocks:

How we work with indigenous communities, not only these ecosystems, environmentally self-sustainable but economically self-sustainable.

Leif Cocks:

So the indigenous communities can prosper and live in harmony with with the rainforest and all that is being then working with a multitude of wonderful organizations and individuals.

Leif Cocks:

Again, it is selfless collectivization.

Leif Cocks:

We work with all these wonderful organizations with advice and technology and points appointed with money and forming joint companies and foundations to work together to save the ecosystems.

Leif Cocks:

So working together globally to bring in the funds necessary to make that meaningful change, working with wonderful individuals and organizations on the ground to then

Catherine:

Well, such a commendable organization, I have researched it.

Catherine:

You are top notch organization on the, star list.

Catherine:

It's a list that helps people know what organizations are out there to give to that are actually putting the money in the field.

Leif Cocks:

We have a moral obligation, especially in developed countries because part of our wealth and affluence, it is vicariously by that fact that living in the society is we're borrowing from the future.

Leif Cocks:

And then we'll be consuming the capacity to support people into the future.

Leif Cocks:

And we're also destroying people's environment in developing nations in order that people who live in these affluent environments in developed nations are buying from the future.

Leif Cocks:

And so we have a moral obligation to give back.

Leif Cocks:

But for many of us, it's not easy.

Leif Cocks:

We're not experts, in particular fields; we don't maybe have the management skills to collectivize it, et cetera.

Leif Cocks:

At least we can all give a little bit of money, give a little support or become a volunteer and raise money.

Leif Cocks:

So we all have the capacity to make our lives more balanced, you know?

Leif Cocks:

And and give back to the planet and other people as much as that we're taking.

Catherine:

If I lived out there, I would be one of the volunteers helping out in any way I can.

Catherine:

So let's look at your books because they are full of stories and, just the power of your words is inspiring.

Catherine:

Now, one of the books did, you know, it's $2,000.

Leif Cocks:

Oh no!

Leif Cocks:

Is it?, there's some error on the book site, is it?

Catherine:

I don't know, but it's the orangutans and their battle for survival is $2,000 on Amazon.

Catherine:

It's

Leif Cocks:

out of print.

Leif Cocks:

It's out of print and somebody bought one decided to cash in.

Catherine:

Yeah.

Catherine:

Yeah, they did.

Catherine:

So, but wow, that, that would be an interesting book.

Catherine:

So I hope it can go into reprint.

Catherine:

I don't know how that works with publishers, but you have finding our humanity and you have Orangutan's my cousins, my friends.

Catherine:

And that's your journey.

Leif Cocks:

Yeah.

Leif Cocks:

I mean, a couple of things about the books is there's no author royalties or anything.

Leif Cocks:

I've never made a cent book in my life, even though, Orangutan my cousin, my friends has been an Amazon bestseller.

Leif Cocks:

If you do buy the paper back, it's, it's environmentally friendly inks and, and recycled paper.

Leif Cocks:

And then, so they're the all in some sense autobiographies about my life.

Leif Cocks:

And so, yeah, and and then the last one is finding our humanity and that's really is come out of when, finishing ...my cousins, my friends I really felt that I had still more to say

Leif Cocks:

and in essence, more to give.

Leif Cocks:

All the money goes to helping save the orangutans and the ecosystems, but also it helps the reader.

Leif Cocks:

It's the positive effect on, on the reader and their journey to happiness.

Leif Cocks:

And, and so it's, it is about everything that we do in the orangutan project including, these books, it's about a win-win situation of giving; in this case, giving some information, stories, and

Catherine:

Well, I'm not finished with it just yet, but I am so much enjoying Orangutans My Cousins, My Friends, I have both finding our humanity and the other.

Catherine:

And even though it's autobiographical on your life, it has so much history of the orangutans in it.

Catherine:

And some of your research, which I think is really important, as well.

Catherine:

There's not many books out there about orangutans.

Catherine:

There's more on the gorillas and the chimps.

Leif Cocks:

Yeah, no, exactly.

Leif Cocks:

I mean, in general, we often see Africa as a bastion of conservation and wildlife because that's how we're brought up, with Africa on a Saturday afternoons.

Leif Cocks:

But the wildlife in Asia is far more endangered than Africa, and there's beautiful persons.

Leif Cocks:

Beautiful, great apes and close relatives in Asian rainforest.

Leif Cocks:

African conservation is important.

Leif Cocks:

But it's so much more dire in, in Asia and therefore the need to, for us to concentrate efforts on Asia.

Leif Cocks:

One of the stories I put in, I think was finding our humanity is, the little girl on the beach and millions of starfish washed on the beach and she's throwing them back.

Leif Cocks:

And a cynical man says, , you can't can't save 'em all..

Leif Cocks:

Well it matters to each she throws back.

Leif Cocks:

And that's the beauty of it.

Leif Cocks:

We, again, as we get into false paradigms.

Leif Cocks:

It's the individual welfare of the animal, no, it's the whole environment and the individual doesn't matter.

Leif Cocks:

No.

Leif Cocks:

Get off these false paradigms.

Leif Cocks:

Both matter.

Leif Cocks:

We don't know the outcome.

Catherine:

And you're not going to know the outcome.

Catherine:

You're not going to be here to know the outcome

Leif Cocks:

exactly.

Leif Cocks:

But we have that vision and that vision is based on science and sound understanding.

Leif Cocks:

And our own individual selves are rewarded.

Leif Cocks:

A life of selfless service.

Catherine:

I am so thankful that you did not get discouraged with all of your planning and still being bombarded with all of the atrocities that continue to happen.

Catherine:

And so we need people like you to continue work, but continue the inspiration and bringing the information and the science.

Catherine:

Your research is science and evidence-based and peer reviewed.

Catherine:

And that is so imperative to education.

Catherine:

Moving forward with the protection of any species is understanding them, the true them through science.

Catherine:

Thank you.

Catherine:

All right.

Catherine:

So let listeners know where to find you, you have couple of websites.

Leif Cocks:

Yes.

Leif Cocks:

We, we have the, the orangutan project all one word, you come see us on a website.

Leif Cocks:

We have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leif Cocks:

And of course we also, because a couple of species are falling outside of our umbrella of concern because elephants and people are killing each other and tigers had criminal syndicates coming in to poach them.

Leif Cocks:

So we started up the international elephant international tiger project to bring all species.

Leif Cocks:

And then yet you can come come on the website and see all the work that we're doing to protect the forest and work with indigenous communities.

Leif Cocks:

As things open up post COVID come to the rainforest with me and experience the beautiful beings, with the orangutans firsthand,

Catherine:

I would love to take my husband out there and go out with you just because not just to see the orangutans, but to go out with an icon

Catherine:

of preserving this species.

Catherine:

And that would be an incredible journey for me.

, Leif Cocks:

a lot of people come and have life-changing experience.

, Leif Cocks:

And I give talks every night and kind of campfire talks on the, on the boat, on the river and take people in journey.

, Leif Cocks:

And of course you get to meet the wonderful young Indonesian conservationists who are on the front line, and then so it's, it's a very genuine enriching experience.

, Leif Cocks:

And for many people it is life-changing.

, Leif Cocks:

Oh,

Catherine:

absolutely.

Catherine:

And for me just doing the research on you has been life-changing for me.

Catherine:

, it is life-changing for me and the things that you've said today, very life-changing and things that I want to do better myself . The Orangutang project.org and it is the, with the word, the.

Catherine:

Theorangutan project.org.

Catherine:

Orangutang is O R A N G U T A N and he also has one regarding his books and a little bit more information about him.

Catherine:

LEIFCOCKS.ORG.

Catherine:

That's L E I F C O C K S.org.

Catherine:

You've been extremely inspiring, but what are your last inspiring words you'd like to share?

Leif Cocks:

Yeah, I mean, I'm just maybe paraphrasing is yeah.

Leif Cocks:

Love all and do what you please, because if you love all, your actions will in sense be beneficial and care to others.

Leif Cocks:

So there's a great freedom in love and universal love.

Leif Cocks:

I hope everybody can experience that joy which is inherent in all of us.

Leif Cocks:

Destruction or the sacrifice of individuals it is always wrong.

Leif Cocks:

That's not how nature works.

Leif Cocks:

The compassionate love of all living beings individually and collectively always bring the best and most notable outcome for all.

Leif Cocks:

The individual orangutans that we save and give the opportunity to live a free and happy life is a lifetime achievement of immeasurable value.

Catherine:

Leif Cocks..

Catherine:

Thank you so much.

Catherine:

You're you're truly humble, but yet you are very vocal in what the message is that you want to get out to citizens of the world regarding your studies with

Catherine:

Leif Cocks.

Catherine:

Thank you so very much for sharing your positive imprints.

Leif Cocks:

Well, thank you Catherine.

Leif Cocks:

Thank you everybody.

Catherine:

Don't forget to share episodes, download, subscribe, or follow this podcast.

Catherine:

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