Bianca Dye is one of the sassiest and most outspoken media celebrities in Australia - a role model for all women and she isn't afraid to tell it like it is! Now she is channelling her energy towards orangutans by joining The Orangutan Project (TOP) as its latest redheaded Ambassador, in an effort to raise awareness about Critically Endangered orangutans.
Bianca will be joining the 'Redheads for Redheads' campaign alongside Channel 7 actress Cornelia Frances, and is also planning to travel to Sumatra later in the year, alongside Leif Cocks, President of TOP.
Bianca is the only female radio announcer to win 'Best Radio Personality' in Australia two years in a row and has won numerous radio awards after 15 years in radio. She is passionate about animals and has previously worked with Humane Society International and the RSPCA as an ambassador and fundraiser. Bianca has also written a book with Dr Cindy Pan 'Playing Hard To Get' (Harper Collins) and her next book in the works will be about blowing away the taboo of daily anxiety and helping others.
"I am extremely excited to be joining forces with TOP to help raise awareness about the plight of the orangutan. Ever since I can remember I have had a fascination with orangutans. They are the most incredibly peaceful and friendly creatures and it breaks my heart that they are a dying breed due to human greed," says Bianca. "They need a voice, they need to be heard and I want to do whatever I can to help them."
Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures, sharing 97% of human genetics and being one of our closest relatives. The battle to protect their land and the threat of extinction is a priority to Bianca and TOP. Their natural habitat is being destroyed by illegal logging and land clearing largely due to palm oil and pulp paper plantations. In Sumatra alone, 80% of the natural forest habitat has been devastated in the past 20 years and is being continuously cleared at an alarming rate.
Cornelia Frances, current Ambassador of The Orangutan Project says, "Being part of this wonderful project has opened my eyes to the extreme devastation the orangutan and its habitat are facing. I am so glad to have another Aussie personality in Bianca join our cause and I hope that our efforts will result in more awareness about orangutans and their plight for survival. Especially more redheads!"
Redheads for Redheads
Bianca has joined the charge and is calling for all redheads, and Australians, to support out closely related cousins. You can help by holding your own 'Redheads for Redheads' event to raise funds to support orangutans, or by adopting your own redheaded orangutan orphan, or by safeguarding their forest.
"Imagine a world without the orangutan? It actually makes me feel physically ill the idea that we as a race could let these beautiful gentle persons of the jungle die out because we refused to stop and look at what we are doing to their habitat. We have to stand up for them - we have to fight this fight for them," says Bianca.
TOP is a not-for-profit organisation supporting orangutan conservation, rainforest protection, local community partnerships and the rehabilitation and reintroduction of displaced orangutans back to the wild, in order to save two orangutan species from extinction.
The general public can help support Bianca and her campaign with The Orangutan Project at www.orangutan.org.au or 1300 RED APE (1300 733 273).
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about The Orangutan Project and what they do?
Bianca Dye: The Orangutan Project (TOP) is a not-for-profit organisation, supporting orangutan conservation, rainforest protection, local community partnerships and the rehabilitation and reintroduction of displaced orangutans back to the wild, in order to save the two orangutan species from extinction.
TOP is a non-partisan organisation that collaborates with several orangutan conservation projects, as well as providing habitat protection through its own programs to deter wildlife poaching, illegal logging and land clearing in Indonesia.
The organisation provides technical and financial assistance directly to conservation projects and orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centres. This includes much needed resources for the day-to-day care needs, the reintroduction of orphaned orangutans and the locating and securing of release sites. Presently there are over 2,000 orphaned orangutans living in care centres in Borneo and Sumatra.
The objectives of the TOP have many flow-on effects that both protect other Critically Endangered Species, such as the Sumatran tiger, elephant and rhino, as well as indigenous communities and the remaining rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra.
Question: What made you decide to join the project?
Bianca Dye: Ever since I can remember i have had a fascination with the orang-utan, they are so like us - so intelligent, emotive, they even share 97% of our DNA. They are the most incredibly peaceful, friendly creatures and it breaks my heart that they are a dying breed due to human greed - they need a voice, they need to be heard. I want to help them - I want to do whatever I can.
Imagine a world without the orangutan? It actually makes me feel physically ill the idea that we as a race could let these beautiful gentle persons of the jungle die out because we refused to stop and look at what we are doing to their habitat. We have to stand up for them - we have to fight this fight for them.
Question: What does your role involve as an ambassador for The Orangutan Project?
Bianca Dye: I'll be working with The Orangutan Project to use my profile to gain greater media and public awareness about this beautiful species and why we need to save them. I'll be hosting redhead events, promoting via social media and even travelling to Sumatra in order to bring attention to the fabulous work the TOP does, in essence, I'll be doing whatever I can do help save the orangutans!
Question: How does Redheads for Redheads raise further awareness for The Orangutan Project?
Bianca Dye: As a redhead myself, I am joining the cause to ask all redheads, as well as Australians, to support out closely related cousins! It is a plea for all of us to recognise the grave danger this redheaded species is in. We will be raising awareness through as many channels as possible in order to raise money for the projects that are desperately needed on the ground in order for the orangutans to survive. It is likely that with the current rate of deforestation orangutans could be gone from the wild completely within ten years or even less.
Question: You're heading to Sumatra later this year, what are your plans while you're there?
Bianca Dye: It is going to be an amazing adventure up close and personal with the orangutans with two of the world's foremost orangutan experts, Leif Cocks and Ian Singleton. We will be visiting reforestation centres, trekking on elephants to the jungle of Gunung Leuser National Park, in Northern Sumatra, viewing wild and ex-captive orangutans who wander freely in their natural surroundings. We will also visit an orangutan hospital and rescue centre which is closed to the public, where veterinarians are breaking new ground in the medical treatment of the red ape, and where orangutans are prepared for reintroduction back into the forests. I'm told there are still a few spots available on our tour for interested travellers!
Question: What can Australians do to help The Orangutan Project?
Bianca Dye: You can help by holding your own 'Redheads for Redheads' event to raise funds to support orangutans, or by adopting your own redheaded orangutan orphan, or by safeguarding their forest so that it is protected for years to come.
Question: Are there opportunities for Australians to travel overseas to help?
Bianca Dye: Absolutely! The Orangutan Project is hosting a series of tours to Borneo and Sumatra as part of a national fundraising initiative that will help save orangutans at the same time as seeing them! Anyone can join a tour to one of three locations in 2012, more information visit www.orangutan.org.au/adventure-tours. Those interested in volunteering overseas can find more information at www.orangutan.org.au/volunteer
Question: Do you have any interesting facts about orangutans that we way not know?
Bianca Dye: In Malay and Indonesian orang means "person" and utan is derived from hutan, which means "forest." Thus, orangutan literally means "person of the forest."
Orangutans' arms stretch out longer than their bodies - over 7 ft. from fingertip to fingertip - and are used to employ a "hookgrip." When on the ground, they walk on all fours, using their palms or their fists.
Male orangutans can weigh up to 110kg. Once mature, they develop large cheek pads, or "flanges", which illustrate dominance and help project their calls through the jungle. Calls made by flanged males can be heard up to one kilometre away, and are therefore referred to as 'long calls'.
When males are fighting, they charge at each other and break branches. If that doesn't scare one of them away, they grapple and bite each other.
For the first 4-6 years of his/her life, an infant orangutan holds tight to his/her mother's body as she moves through the forest in search of fruit.
Like humans, orangutans have opposable thumbs. Their big toes are also opposable.
Orangutans have tremendous strength, which enables them to swing from branch to branch and hang upside-down from branches for long periods of time to retrieve fruit and eat young leaves.
Today, orangutans only live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. However they once inhabited forests as far North as China! These orangutans were thought to have been substantially larger - fossils have shown that orangutans in Southern China, in the early to middle Pleistocene age, were 40% larger than modern orangutans.
Every 5 orangutans per square kilometre of forest helps sustain: 5 species of Hornbill, 50 species of fruit tree, 15 species of Lianas, and many more plants & animals. The orangutan is a keystone species, meaning that they play a key role in the ecosystem in which they belong. For example, many tree species can only germinate once their seeds have passed through the gut of an orangutan (as shown in the figures above). This means that if the orangutan is removed from the ecosystem, those tree species will be lost as well, and there may be a range of other species that rely on those trees for food or shelter which will also die-off... like a domino effect.
Orangutans, like humans, are tool users. In the forest, orangutans use tools such as sticks, bark and rocks to extract insects from tree hollows and remove yummy seeds from fruits and pods. Orangutans also weave together branches and foliage to make themselves sleeping nests at night, high up in the jungle canopy.
Interview by Brooke Hunter and Fiona Tew