Posted by: masaranghk | April 17, 2016

Orangutan expert, Leo Hulsker, visiting Indonesia

leowillieMy friend Leo is one of the most experienced primate keepers in the world. He has worked almost 40 years with the great apes in The Netherlands in various zoos, latest the famous Apenheul. Leo looks into their minds, or rather their souls, be it orangutans, gorillas or other primates. For me that includes humans, because he is very smart and funny. He is one of the top leaders in a motor club called Satudara, which is all around the world. And when we were deep in the jungle that word elicited enthusiastic response of my staff there. In a supermarket in Sintang some staff saw his T-shirt with the club symbols and of course more pictures!! leowillie2

Beneath here are some words that Leo wrote after visiting me and some of the projects again in Indonesia, something that Leo has been doing for over the last 20 years. As always, Leo was offering great guidance to the projects and our staff in various ways for improving the orangutan’s welfare. Thanks Leo! Always welcome! Come back soon.

Willie Smits


February 2016.

Visit to Tasikoki Rescue Centre, North Sulawesi.

It is great to be back for a short visit to the Tasikoki Rescue Centre of the Masarang Foundation in North Sulawesi in Indonesia.leowillie3

The Centre looks great and all the animals look really healthy. Lots of volunteers are busy cleaning the enclosures, feeding the animals and working on enrichment preparation.

After a nice cup of coffee, we went over to the enclosure of Is and Bento. I met both of them years ago when they where still two little orangutan boys. During their stay at Tasikoki, I`ve been visiting them every couple of years.

(Quick note: none of the orangutan reintroduction projects had a place for these two males due to some of their behavioral issues)

As soon as I saw them, they had already spotted me! It gives me such a warm feeling that they still recognize me, especially after the last time I visited them was about two years ago. It is really like visiting ‘old’ friends, although I’m the only old one!  🙂

Is wanted to say hello to me but, of course, Bento, the big guy (above here on the right), claimed me and Is was not allowed to come over.

After Bento calmed down a bit from the excitement of seeing me again, he came over and sat next to me, looked me deep in the eyes and let me know how happy he was to see me.  It is still a great honour to be able to ‘read’ the eyes of the orangutans, but they decide if you may read them or not.

Communicating with orangutans is for me the ultimate sign of trust they can give me and it gives me chills every time it happens. They are really wonderful beings and I feel honored to be able to meet them and be welcomed by them.

I want to thank my good friend Willie Smits again for giving me the chance to meet the orangutans in Indonesia. I also want to thank his brother, Theo Smits.


February 2016

Visit to the Sintang Orangutan Centre, West Kalimantan.

After a long trip to get there, Willie and I finally arrived at the Sintang Orangutan Centre, West-Kalimantan.

leowillie4Father Jacques was waiting for us at the airport and it was great to see him again after my last visit two years ago.

The environment looks great and the staff is very dedicated. I’ve never seen orangutans so relaxed at a rescue Centre!

Even the youngest orangutans are in total peace with each other and you can see them reacting very positively to the staff.

Of course I want to say hello to all of the orangutans, some of them really liked my tattoos and wanted to see if there were any more hidden under my shirt! 🙂leowillie5

The staff planned a visit to the orangutan semi-release project at SOC Tembak and, of course, I wanted to go along.  

I really wanted to meet Momo and Mamat again! After a long ride on a small motorbike, following the car, we arrived at the SOC clinic at Tembak.

The first thing I wanted to do was to say hello to my old friends, Momo and Mamat.


I have to be honest; seeing Mamat again made me a bit emotional as the first time we met he was really in a very bad state. Willie has written the story of Mamat, please read it! 

I was thrilled to see that Mamat and Momo are looking great! What a difference in Mamat from when he was rescued and first arrived at Sintang! And look at him (and me 😉 now) leowillie9leowillie8leowillie7

We all wanted to say ‘Hi’ to each other. A lot of hugging was going on!

I does me a lot of good to see that they are having a wonderful life at the SOC in Tembak.  Again they are very dedicated people there, doing their best to take care of the orangutans.

I had a wonderful meeting with the staff the next day and I shared my experience with them.

It was a short visit but for me it was one of the highlights of this journey to Indonesia.

I am looking forward to my next visit to Indonesia and to seeing my old friends again, both human and orangutan! leowillie10

Leo Hulsker



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