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+ Zhang Ziyi

Zhang Ziyi, one of China’s best-known actors, with credits including Memoirs of a Geisha, tells PAUL EHRLICH how she is rejuvenated by visiting a sanctuary for orphaned orangutans

Published on May 7, 2010

Zhang Ziyi

Mountains, oceans, deserts and rain forests: they bring us balance and harmony. They always welcome us when we need refuge from our ultra-busy lives. They provide us with sanctuary when we need to be refreshed. So it seems only right that we protect and care for our natural world as it continues to be encroached upon by urban life. I think we can only truly care for something if we get to know it better—there is nothing like firsthand experience. I had the chance recently to visit the fascinating orangutans of Borneo, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which I have not stopped talking about since.

Within the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, there is an orangutan nature reserve. Here, rangers rehabilitate orphaned babies, so that one day they will be able to live freely in the rain forest. I fell for Alan in a big way. He’s a three-year-old orangutan orphan, who will be released back into the wild in a couple of years. Even though he’s still a baby, he’s strong and quite heavy. Alan completely won me over with his doleful eyes. He is playful, intelligent and very curious.

The nature reserve offers programs in which you can participate to help protect the orangutans. My favorite is the adoption program—I now receive a photo of Alan every six months and news about his rehabilitation.

If you stay at the Rasa Ria, you can go down a path from your room to the reserve. One minute you are in your room looking at the South China Sea lapping gently on the sandy beach and in the next you are in a tropical forest amid the wildlife. It leaves me totally rejuvenated.


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