Whaplode’s orangutan lady

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Steph Brown says she can only do TLC: she passed out once when she tried assisting a vet.

That tender loving care was enough when she rescued injured animals as a small child in Holbeach Fen.

And it was what was needed when she was busy raising three daughters in Whaplode with husband Ian.

Her caring personality was also what earned her the title of Lincolnshire ambassador for the Orangutan Foundation in around 2001.

A documentary about actress Julia Roberts with orangutans in Borneo changed Steph’s life when she saw it in 1998.

Within a year Steph had made contact with the charity and went out to Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, where many of the world’s orangutans live in the wild.

Sadly, poachers and the destruction of their natural habitat had forced the animal to the brink of extinction, and the Orangutan Foundation was working to reverse that by protecting their tropical forest habitat and promoting research and education.

Steph, who lives in Millgate, says: “I thought, ‘This is why I am here’. If you believe in a life before, I could imagine I lived out there. I feel so comfortable out in Borneo that now I live with the Dayak tribes when I go and live in huts on stilts.”

Since her first visit, Steph has returned to the country six or seven times, each journey adding to her knowledge of the orangutans and their situation.

Once home again, Steph gives talks, something she did up to four years ago, and organises fundraisers. In total, she and people who have been inspired by her talks have donated more than £7,000 to the Orangutan Foundation.

The most recent fundraiser, a fun day at Silverwood Garden Centre and Tearooms at Long Sutton, raised £700 for the charity, and Steph thanks everyone who supported it.

Steph is planning another fact-finding mission to Borneo next year, but also has another meeting planned while she is there: with the baby orangutan named after her.

Steph, who loves it when people call her The Orangutan Lady, says: “They are my favourite creatures and they are so close to our DNA. They share 98 per cent of our genes. It’s the only animal I can have a telepathic conversation with. It’s unbelievable what you can see in an orangutan’s eyes and they don’t forget and I think that’s why you can almost read them.”

That first trip to Borneo was life-changing for Steph, and not just because she travelled abroad on her own. She says: “I realised the orphaned and injured orangutans needed our help. All animals have a right to live in their own environment.”