Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Virtual Ecotourism

Ian Redmond takes orangutan-eye view of palm-oil plantation from orangutan nest on edge of forest Sumatra Indonesia

Virtually being there…

Imagine you had the power of remote viewing, so you could visit places all over the world without even leaving home! You could look around amazing habitats, experience the sights and sounds of the wildlife and hear scientists and conservationists tell you about their work.  For the past couple of years, I have been part of a small team that is working to make this vision of virtual ecotourism a reality.  

The early results are now on-line at  Born Free is working with the American inventor of the concept, Mark Laxer, to use this new tool for immersive, interactive conservation education.  Soon, anyone with internet access will be able to virtually visit Born Free projects around the globe.  This is being done using ‘panos’, or spherical panoramic photographs, which enable you to enter the photo and look up, down and behind you!  With ambient sound from the location, it really feels like you are there.  Moreover, if you see something interesting just click on it and up comes a short video – maybe of animal behaviour or an interview about the work being done – or you might be transported to the next pano that could be 50 paces or 50 miles away.

A good example of the power of this technology is the nest pano, which gives you an orangutan’s view of deforestation.  I took it by climbing up to an orangutan nest in the top of a tree in Sumatra, Indonesia, to illustrate the problems facing Sumatran orangutans: as far as the eye can see, serried ranks of oil palms stretch in almost every direction and trucks rumble by.  When the orangutan who awoke to this sight was an infant, all this was forest.  Now, his home has been replaced by oil palms.  And yet this nest is in the supposedly protected Tripa peat swamp forest, part of the Gunung Leuser ecosystem.  Worse still, we pay for this destruction when we buy foods and cosmetics made with this profitable vegetable oil.  Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, said, “Vecotourism will help people better understand the nature of the crisis facing Aceh's forest and the future of Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers.”  After the tour, you are invited to take action to help, by signing petitions, writing letters and shopping carefully to avoid products containing uncertified palm-oil resulting from deforestation.

Ian Redmond OBE

Senior Wildlife Consultant

Meet the Chimanuka gorilla family

Have a virtual visit to Kahuzi-Bieaga in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This tour takes you to meet Chimanuka, the silverback leader of a group of 36 individuals living in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. You’ll also learn some of the finer points of “gorilla etiquette” from your host, Ian Redmond, and learn how to produce a “contact call” to warn the gorillas that you’re nearby!



Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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