Monday, February 21, 2011

Jury Duty for the Orangutan Dad

It must have made actress Kim Bassinger smile when she heard me answer the judge’s pattern questions to each potential juror. Yes, I was on jury duty that day, and yes, Kim Bassinger was on trial in a breach of contract lawsuit.

“Your honor, I am married, and have two children, one human and one non-human,” I proudly stated. A few stifled laughs could be heard in the courtroom, but after the judge gave me a follow up question to explain myself, I calmly mentioned that for two years I had adopted a juvenile orangutan as my daughter in the jungles of Borneo, taught her sign language as part of my doctoral research, and still consider her my child today. There, I admitted it in a court of law, not because I wanted to look like a kook trying to get out of jury duty, but because I am genuinely proud to consider myself the father (adopted father) of a wonderful and beautiful girl- even if she is several percent genetically removed from my own gene pool. To say that in a court of law only testifies to my own belief in the validity of the relationship and the connection I have shared with her in the years since first “adopting” her.

Kim, sitting with Alec Baldwin, gave me a wink as I passed by her on my way out of the court room. I was one of several prospective jurors excused that day from jury duty. But my duty as an orangutan dad continues to this day.


The Orangutan Dad is also President & Co-Founder of the Orang Utan Republik Foundation. The mission of OURF is to save orangutans through education and other innovative collaborative projects. For more information visit


  1. What a beautiful sentiment. If only enough people saw the world through your eyes, Gary.