Orangutans, large apes with reddish-ginger fur, are among humans’ closest relatives. They are in good company with chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas, who rank slightly closer to us. In the Malay language, Orangutan means “forest person.” These intelligent creatures use sophisticated tools and fashion branches and foliage into elaborate sleeping nests in the trees, where they spend most of their time.
Unfortunately, orangutans are critically endangered, and The Orangutan Project that supports them is at the top of the philanthropic list for Katrina Sriranpong, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based former lawyer and philanthropist.
In addition to The Orangutan Project, Sriranpong supports animal welfare through the Soi Dog Foundation and Elephant Nature Park, nonprofit organizations in Thailand that have captured her heart. She also supports various child-centric nonprofit organizations, including UNICEF, Save the Children, War Child, the New Hope Foundation, and Operation Underground Railroad.
Katrina Sriranpong’s career in advocacy started as a lawyer. She has a deep interest in assisting vulnerable populations and spent much of her career assisting refugees and immigrants navigate the complex web of immigration law and policy. Sriranpong represented victims of human trafficking through difficult circumstances in their life. She is also an advocate for the rights of children in war-torn countries and supports programs aimed at developmental aid.
As a former lawyer, philanthropist, and full-time mom, Katrina Sriranpong wants to make the world a better place for her two young children. She has consistently supported charities and nonprofit organizations through donations of both time and money internationally and in Canada, where she resides with her family.
Elephant Nature Park
“Thailand has a dark truth regarding its treatment of elephants. Elephants are usually taken from the wild as calves. Due to the close familial bond and instinct to protect their young, the whole herd is usually slaughtered to steal just one baby elephant. The calf is then tortured for several weeks as it is believed to break its spirit and become loyal to the new human owner,” says Katrina Sriranpong. Unfortunately, international tourists unknowingly fuel this abuse by financially supporting elephant shows and rides. Many do not realize the torture that domestic elephants endure to become subservient.
Elephant Nature Park located in northern Thailand serves as a sanctuary for elephants. Sriranpong and her husband visited the sanctuary and witnessed these beautiful creatures roaming freely for acres without chains. They decided to financially support the organization and support its cause.
Elephant Nature Park also protects the local Thai culture that surrounds it. The park creates local employment and purchases food from the area’s farmers to assist the villagers in protecting the park. The nonprofit organization also hires local wildlife rangers in the pursuit of maintaining the cultural integrity of the local community.
Soi Dog Foundation
As Katrina Sriranpong’s family is from Thailand, she has supported Soi Dog Foundation, based in Phuket, Thailand, for over 14 years. Soi Dog Foundation aims to alleviate the suffering of homeless dogs and cats living on the streets. Soi Dog Foundation provides animals for adoption, provides emergency medical assistance, and has implemented spay and neutering programs to control the population of dogs and cats in Thailand.
Soi Dog Foundation has also been instrumental in campaigns against the barbaric dog and cat meat trade in Asia for over a decade. In 2014, with the assistance of governments and private organizations, the inhumane trade in Thailand was abolished when Soi Dog Foundation argued for Thailand to bring about Thailand’s first animal welfare law. Soi Dog Foundation operates in numerous countries in Asia hoping to end the dog and cat meat trade.
The Orangutan Project
The Orangutan Project rehabilitates orphaned or injured orangutans in its many care centers in Asia. The goal is to give orangutans the best chance of survival against extinction. Katrina Sriranpong urges others to support the nonprofit, founded in 1998 by world-renowned orangutan expert Leif Cocks, who has led it since its inception.
The Orangutan Project funds numerous rescue teams in Sumatra and Borneo which relocate wild orangutans in high-risk situations into protected forest habitats. Visitors to The Orangutan Project’s website can “adopt” an orangutan in a rescue or rehabilitation center for as little as $12 per month. All adoption funds go to the care of more than 1,000 orphaned orangutans, who are learning how to care for themselves and — one hopes — make a safe return to protected forests.
“There are many options to assist The Orangutan Project. For instance, donors can choose to adopt a baby orangutan named Natalee, who likely witnessed the horrific killing of her mother. Natalee was stolen from her mother as an infant and smuggled into Thailand for the illegal pet trade. Fortunately, with the assistance of a wildlife rescue centre in Thailand, Natalee is back in Sumatra. But she must learn how to survive on her own by going through ‘Jungle School’ with other young orangutans. Wild orangutans will usually spend more than eight years with their mother to learn vital skills needed to survive. Every orphaned orangutan needs at least five years of jungle schooling to survive in the wild. As a result, financial support from donors is critical to ensuring the success of this process,” says Katrina Sriranpong.
The group also protects critical habitat: the Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem, one of the most extensive lowland forests on Sumatra. Some of the last populations of critically endangered Sumatran tigers, elephants, and orangutans dwell in the rainforest. The Orangutan Project’s wildlife rangers fiercely protect this haven that orangutans desperately need to roam, breed, and survive.