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 www.orangutanrepublik.org.