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Natural World

  • Season 32
  • 10 episodes
  • Nature

Episode 6: Orangutans: The Great Ape Escape - Natural World


Leonora is a 16-year-old orangutan who has been living in a commune on a protected island run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. This documentary follows Leonora and her three-year-old infant Lemar as they undertake an epic and life-changing journey by boat, road and finally helicopter, before being released into the rainforest.


A star rating of 3 out of 5.

The abiding image in this film is of an orangutan inside a crate, which is then strapped on the back of a truck or suspended in the air under a helicopter. A camera fixed inside the crate captures her bewildered reactions as she is driven through busy city streets and flown over the Borneo jungle on her way to being released into the wild. She is part of a major programme to liberate hundreds of orphaned orangutans who have lived most of their lives at a sanctuary, and she is a pioneer: how she and seven others cope with life in the wild will determine the fate of 600 others.

It is, we’re told, the culmination of a lifetime’s work for conservationist Lone Droscher Nielsen, the heroine of the film. But the real stars are the endearingly shaggy apes, with their expressive eyes and distinctive personalities (look out for a hopeless adolescent male), reduced to the edge of extinction by habitat loss and hunting.

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DirectorAnnie Backhouse
Executive producerChris Cole
ProducerAnnie Backhouse
Series directorRoger Webb

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