A few months back, we were contacted by a wonderful volunteer named Ellie. She had discovered the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project and plans to join Kate and the team next year. However, she wants to bring more than just herself to the table and has thought of a unique initiative to try and raise funds for the project, and as she is studying art, she plans to do this by creating an orangutan painting to draw awareness to the cause.
Ellie’s previous work is simply phenomenal, and we are very excited to see her final orangutan piece which is currently in the works! She combines her studies with conservation, something we thought was a fascinating concept here at The Great Projects. She plans to premiere her work at an exhibition for her university later on this year, and we want to help raise awareness of her clever campaign, so we asked her a few questions about her story. Check it out below…
This is just one of Ellie's stunning works. Find more by following her on Instagram: @ellieoliverart.
We need to contribute more, make more of an effort to save the animals we made endangered in the first place.
I feel that from a first glance it is hard to understand how the arts can help conservation, but as you look more closely you realise it is actually intertwined through photography, videography, media and marketing. They are all big contributors to getting the message across. Ever since I was little, I have been obsessed with animals and I feel all animals deserve mutual respect and as much compassion as we would treat humans with, because really, what is it that makes us so special?
The answer is simple: nothing - other than a quicker rate of evolution maybe.
I always wanted to be a zoologist so I could observe the natural world in more detail, but biology was not my forte. So, I decided on art, and since volunteering last year in Sri Lanka it has led me to try combining the two so I can live out both my passions. I believe if you are not painting something you are passionate about, then why paint at all?
Mother and baby orangutan at Samboja Lestari enjoying some ice block enrichment.
There was no set inspiration - like a documentary or an advert on TV, but just a sense of 'we need to do better'. I was looking for a place to volunteer again but I wanted to make sure it was with a reputable company that has a focus on conservation. Then I came across The Great Projects and thought it was the perfect fit.
Volunteering for an orangutan project is on my bucket list, and so I thought I would try and do it next year. As a species ourselves, we have the knowledge and capability to not destroy all other inhabitants of the planet, although, that is all we seem to be doing. I knew that the Bornean orangutans were critically endangered and have always loved them, so when it comes to the question of why Samboja Lestari, it was because there was something special about this project that just drew me right to it.
Baby Orangutan at Samboja Lestari
When you look into an orangutan's eyes it is the same as looking into a person's. You can see the thoughts behind their eyes, almost trying to judge what to make of you. There is a certain sense of awe you get when looking at a great ape. Also, I am only eighteen, and when I look at orangutans for some reason, I feel a sense of wisdom that I would normally feel only when looking at my Grandpa. They demand respect and we should give them that.
My biggest idol at the moment is John Banovich. From his art, he managed to donate $70,000 to conservation and has had the opportunity to study the behaviour of wildlife throughout the course of his career. Also, as a painter myself, I am always in awe when I look at his work - he captures a sense of the animal that sometimes photographs cannot.
John Banovich - Man-Eaters of Tsavo, 2002
I am hoping to be able to volunteer more in the future, including my goal of saving funds to take with me when I go out to Samboja Lestari next year. However, my main goal is to be able to produce artwork that can be used as a way of enticing others to contribute more to conservation, whether it is eventually used as a marketing technique or that I am able to sell my artwork and donate a chunk of the profits to conservation projects.
I think the world needs volunteers because we are the only ones who can make a positive impact. Volunteering is an invaluable, massive contribution of money and time that a person donates. If everyone volunteered in some way it could help towards fixing the mistakes we made as a species - destroying the population of other animals and their habitats for the sake of industrial development.
At just eighteen, Ellie is a true conservation inspiration, and her touching words reflect the passion, the drive and the dedication that the world needs to bring endangered species back from the brink, as well as preventing any more habitat being destroyed. She has used her incredible talents selflessly to support a cause always in need of help, and we have a great feeling that this sweet, young woman will do great things for wildlife conservation.
We will be giving you more updates on Ellie and her orangutan painting over the coming months, so if you want to support her cause, help Ellie get a headstart with her fundraising by donating here: https://gogetfunding.com/samboja-lestari-orangutan-foundation/. make sure you keep in touch - we will be sharing more information about how you can help soon. In the meantime, take a closer look at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project, or
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