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How a Bornean Orangutan Inspired Beautiful Art

Orangutan sat in tree

From Wild Encounter to Canvas: How One Bornean Orangutan Inspired Art

The humid jungle air hung heavy as the Wild Welfare field team approached the beautiful Gomantong Caves in North-East Sabah. This was a rare opportunity for us to take a day to explore and discover more about the rich ecology and geology around the area of our fieldwork base. Anticipation was high among the team as we trekked closer to the imposing cliff face engulfed in lush greenery. The rich landscape around the caves were not entirely untouched by human presence; a small group of harvesters lived near the cave entrance along with their dogs. As we passed their dwellings along the meandering pathways, we suddenly stopped in our tracks, I excitedly grasped for my binoculars. It was such a magnificent sight – a female orangutan was quietly foraging in the lush treetops! This would be the very first encounter that would ultimately leave an indelible mark on our hearts and go on to inspire a future piece of powerful artwork.

After a fascinating exploration of the caves, we emerged back into the sunlight. To our surprise, the same orangutan had now descended the cliff face and was inquisitively exploring the harvester’s patch in the near distance. Orangutan in treeShe hung around for a considerable time, continuing to carefully forage, every movement was graceful and deliberate. This allowed me time to reach for my camera and capture each magical snapshot from a respectful distance. Through our contained excitement, it soon became apparent that something wasn’t quite right. Her eyes seemed dulled, veiled by a milky cloudiness. It was a punishing realisation – her vision was severely hindered by cataracts in one eye.

With every careful grasp of a branch with her dexterous hands, each snap of a twig echoed in the poignant stillness. At that moment we realised she was drawn to a jackfruit tree located just behind us. Understanding her desire, we stepped aside, allowing her a clear path to access the fruit tree.

However, the local dogs would soon become aware of her presence. As she gingerly approached the tree, the barking dogs would rush across to chase her away. Undeterred, she’d retreat, before plucking up courage to try again. Witnessing her attempts to reach the jackfruit was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The struggle for survival, even for something as simple as food, underscored the challenges this magnificent creature faced in a habitat increasingly touched by human activity.
She finally managed to carefully clamber back to the tree and claim some jackfruit, only for a young male orangutan to swiftly appear from the trees. He hastily swooped across and snatched the jackfruit from her hand! Thankfully her perseverance would eventually pay off.

Experiencing the determination and resilience of this individual orangutan continued to remain with me for a long time after our fieldwork trip was over. One day, I found myself retelling the story of this amazing experience to Megan, a dear friend and a talented artist. I had known Megan for many years as we studied on similar animal biology courses at Nottingham Trent University. Since those days, Megan had established herself as an acclaimed artist. But beyond her artistic talent, Megan was also deeply passionate about animal welfare and conservation. We talked at length about the photos I had taken in Borneo and the details of our special orangutan encounter. A spark ignited! Megan’s artistic vision, combined with the raw emotion captured in the photograph, ignited the idea for a stunning piece of art – a testament to the brave orangutans’ resilience in the face of adversity.

Megan’s passion for Wild Welfare was not only limited to bringing this artwork to life. She would also go on to join our mission as a charity ambassador. Her engaged followers are always eager to hear the stories we can tell together through her emotive artwork. Megan’s dedication and support for Wild Welfare has been truly amazing. She continued working on the piece for many months, capturing every small detail on canvas for the very first time. Working from the photographs and my personal story as the source material.

Orangutan laying on farmers verandaMegan has now unveiled the stunning finished piece and generously donated the one-of-a-kind pastel artwork to Wild Welfare. We’re now searching for a dedicated patron to become the new owner of this original artwork, with 100% of proceeds from the sale going directly towards Wild Welfare’s efforts to improve the well-being of animals around the globe.

But the story doesn’t end there! We now want you, our incredible community, to be a part of this amazing journey too. Here’s your chance to make a lasting impact by helping us to name Megan’s masterpiece! We have asked our supporters for their name suggestions across our social media platforms. Be sure to submit your own ideas by following Wild Welfare online!

Beyond naming the artwork, you can own a piece of the story with our limited-edition prints. 20% of all print proceeds will be donated to directly support Wild Welfare’s global initiatives, ensuring a brighter future for all animals under human care. Order your limited edition print online at

What began with a chance encounter in the Borneo rainforest, became a heartwarming tale told through meticulous brushstrokes, capturing the hearts and minds of so many. A true testament to the sentiment “a picture speaks a thousand words”.

To inquire about purchasing the original artwork piece please email

Orangutan Artwork

© Megan Elizabeth Art