Borneo. Just the name conjures up images of remote river expeditions through steamy rainforest in search of the most famous of its inhabitants, the orangutan. And despite opening up to tourism significantly in recent years, vast tracts of this island (particularly the Indonesian state of Kalimantan) are still a lost world in tourism terms
As a humanitarian and an advocate for animal rights, I was saddened by the news that Copenhagen zoo finally carried out their plan to end the life of Marius the giraffe last Sunday, especially as an awful lot of people around the world had asked them so nicely not to.
The news that a baby giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo has been shot dead has provoked a storm of worldwide protest. Wildlife enthusiasts are described as 'saddened', animal rights campaigners are furious and petitions are flying around social media demanding the zoo's closure. But not me.
Shocking news has emerged this week that a lion was found hanged in an Indonesian zoo. If you think what's happened to this poor creature is bad, the fact is its happening to every zoo animal. Death prowls the shadows of every zoo.
Broken bones, crushed internal organs, limb loss, suffocation, dehydration, starvation, malnutrition, disease, chronic stress and fear. These are just some of the concerning injuries and conditions that are experienced by animals associated with wildlife trade.
The amount of money now washing around Asia and the seemingly unquenchable demand there for ivory, particularly in countries such as Vietnam and China, has caused the price charged on the black market to soar. Indeed in many places ivory is now worth more per ounce than gold. The result has been an almost unprecedented slaughter on the savannahs. Some 100 elephants are being killed per day in Africa, and at present rates of poaching the surviving population in the wild risks being decimated within a decade. Chad had 15,000 elephants. Now it is 400.
Experiencing a completely different way of life and culture made me draw comparisons to my own life. Obviously, it highlights issues of materialism and made me really appreciate the significance of family and community. There was only 5,000 people on the island I was working on. They all knew and loved each other and were so welcoming to the volunteers.
Madagascar has many different faces. There's the wealth of biodiversity and endemic species such as the famous lemurs, but then there is also the extreme poverty and political instability. Before I arrived on my volunteering placement, I didn't really know what to expect; I'd never been out of Europe before so everything was a new experience.
Africa's wildlife is what sets the continent apart from the rest of the world. It is their best resource. With many areas tormented by political dispute, poverty and an on-going battle with the demon that is HIV, it seems that the people of Africa need to realise the significance of what remains. So why is it then that they can so easily be seen as passive in its destruction?
Why should you care about wildlife that exists thousands of miles away? All of these different species and seemingly countless variations on a theme.