A photographer has captured the heartwarming moment on camera when a kindhearted female orangutan offered her helping hand to a guard catching snakes in a forest river. The thought-provoking photo is inspiring people to consider the beauty of these endangered great apes, and our responsibility as humans to protect their species.
For Anil T. Prabhakar, photography is a passion. “I love to grab lovely moments from the life of wild animals without disturbing them or their natural habitats,” he explained to The Epoch Times.
In September 2019, Prabhakar had the opportunity to snap an intimate moment during a safari to Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF)’s conservation forest area in Indonesia.
The main role of the nonprofit’s wildlife guards, Prabhakar explained, is to clean the river and report the presence of any poisonous snakes or predators. Those that are found are either killed or safely relocated, and snakes are the biggest threat to orangutan survival on their site.
While trekking, Prabhakar noticed a guard plunge into the muddy water to perform his maintenance work. As the photographer watched, a female orangutan approached the bank to observe the guard fishing for snakes and river detritus, and Prabhakar snapped some closeups.
After a few moments, the guard appeared to get stuck in the mud. “He kept trying to pull out his legs and wanted to move further,” Prabhakar recalled, “and suddenly the female orangutan, who quietly remained as a spectator, got up and came closer and stretched one of her hands towards the guard.”
Their quiet interaction lasted several minutes. Prabhakar lamented that the guard did not accept the orangutan hand; instead, he moved away.
“I was really amazed at this unexpected, sweet gesture from the orangutan,” Prabhakar reflected. “The irony is, we, the human beings, are destroying their habitat, yet they are offering a helping hand towards us.”
Prabhakar had the chance to speak to the guard after his emergence from the river. His explanation for not taking the helping orangutan’s hand was that she was “still wild”; thus, her reactions were unpredictable.
Prabhakar shared his moving photo of the orangutan and her outstretched hand on Instagram in January 2020, captioned, “Let me help you?” It was liked by thousands and quickly circulated in news and social media.
On June 24, Prabhakar was invited to present a print of the now-famous image to BOSF co-founder Dr. Ishak. “This is one of the happiest moment[s] in my life,” Prabhakar exclaimed.
BOSF’s conservation forest has been a rehabilitation space for orangutans rescued from deforestation fires, poachers, and habitat loss since 1991. Once treated and found fit for release, members of this critically endangered species are reintroduced to the wilds of the Borneo rainforest.
At the time of writing, the foundation is taking care of 650 orangutans. There are only around 104,700 Bornean orangutans left in the wild.
Prabhakar believes that we should consider the orangutan’s amazing gesture as a reminder of how selfish we are, but also of what makes human beings different from the animals: “the power of reasoning, and the inherent virtue called ‘humanity.’”
“I still believe this is the only true, ultimate hope for mankind,” the photographer explained to The Epoch Times. “That is the key thought element behind my post, which is widely applauded across the globe.”