Charles describes tragedy of lost habitat after close encounter with orangutan
He and Camilla are on an 11-day tour of south-east Asia and India.
The Prince of Wales has touched the hand of an orangutan and spoken of the tragedy of the great ape’s habitat being destroyed.
Charles’ close encounter came in the Borneo rainforest, where he met conservationists to learn about efforts to safeguard the endangered animals.
But after handing over a banana to a young adolescent male, a source said the prince felt it was tragic the animals’ habitat had been destroyed so dramatically over the past 20 years, its survival was in doubt.
It meant many young orangutans were being rescued after being separated or losing their mothers, and then rehabilitated back into the wild.
Orangutans are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra and are threatened by the destruction of their habitats, which are being felled due to logging, mining and forest fires.
Charles looked on in awe as six of the giant apes came to a spot at the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on the island of Borneo, where they feed.
He watched intently though his binoculars as one huge adult male, nicknamed Edwin, went on to a feeding platform to enjoy a feast of mangoes and bananas, followed by a mother and her baby.
He was allowed to carefully offer two adolescent males a banana each, stretching out his arm to offer the apes a treat as they mirrored his movement.
Semenggoh is the biggest orangutan rehabilitation centre in the state of Sarawak and is close to the region’s capital Kuching.
The source raised another issue, saying the prince was determined to halt the destruction of the rainforests to protect the indigenous tribes that have lived in the unique habitats for thousands of years.
“They have such crucial knowledge of the natural environment and an understanding of the biodiversity of the rainforest that will be lost forever,” the source said.
“It is like an amazing library being burnt down, and all the knowledge being lost forever.”
Earlier the prince became king of the jungle when he was taught the art of hunting with a blowpipe – and was hailed a natural.
Charles got to grips with the ancient weapon when, with the Duchess of Cornwall, he visited a ”living village” in Malaysia, showcasing the lifestyles and customs of Borneo tribes.
Normally loaded with a poison dart, the weapon is used by the Penan people and others to hunt everything from wild boar and lizards to monkeys.
But for Charles the deadly substance was not used and he happily got to grips with the five-foot long blowpipe, following a demonstration at Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching.
Camilla gave her husband a few words of encouragement, telling him ”don’t suck”, and he replied: ”I’ll just close one eye,” as he looked down the barrel of the pipe.
A few cries of encouragement and applause went up from Charles’ entourage when the first dart hit just below a five-inch (13cm) wide target painted with a bulls-eye some eight metres away.
Charles turned to Kubai Uat, 33, a blowpipe expert, and asked for ”one more, I was just getting the range”, before puffing out his cheeks again for another go, but his effort fell well short of the target.
Mr Uat said later: ”For a beginner it was a good effort, the target is very small and if he can get that close he can hit a wild boar.”