Gemma Copeland is many sorts of things. One, she’s the loving, devoted mother of a young child. And two, she is passionate about traveling. And she doesn’t think the two things she enjoys should be mutually exclusive. That was why when she had her son, she decided to take him along on her travels and make him realize at a young age what a great thing it was to see the world with one’s eyes.
On one of those trips, Gemma and her partner took their son to Vienna, Austria—both thinking that it was to be an ordinary trip for the family. Little did they know that what they would experience in Vienna would change their lives and especially Gemma’s perception about the world. And it was all because of an empathetic orangutan who interacted with Gemma and her child in a gentle and intimate moment.
On that fateful day, they were visiting Schönbrunn Zoo when Gemma’s son got hungry. At that moment, they were at the window of an orangutan enclosure, and Gemma sat down by the enclosure to breastfeed her boy. That was when the gentle orangutan approached them and interacted with Gemma and her child in what many onlookers (and later on, netizens) considered to be an extremely touching moment that provides conclusive proof that maternal love knows no bounds and is universal in all kinds of species.
In an interview with the media, Copeland has said of her breastfeeding experiences, “My breastfeeding experiences in public have been diverse, some people looking curious, others content and the odd negative one. Once I was asked to cover my little boy whilst he was feeding to which I responded by handing over a spare muslin and asking them if they minded covering their shallow-minded selves. This quickly ended the situation leaving me to enjoy my coffee and bonding with my son.”
But this time, she and her son got a different, much warmer response at the Schönbrunn Zoo, which presently prides itself on being the oldest zoo in the world that’s still in active operation. Founded in 1752, it is now a major center for general nature conservation and species conservation.
Gemma added, “I would like to think Vienna chose us as opposed to us choosing Vienna. When searching for our trip, I had no destination in mind but it proved to be a life-changing choice as little did we know what was about to happen.”
Gemma posted about her amazing experience, and her incredible story immediately went viral online, reaching almost 5 million people. In an effort to give back to the gentle creature who had changed her life so unexpectedly and yet so permanently, Gemma decided to use the platform she’d suddenly been given to highlight the cause of the orangutan.
“I’ve been given an opportunity and a platform to attempt to make a change [so] I’d like to raise money for the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of the orangutan,” Gemma said. She is also encouraging people to donate to the Borneo Orangutan Rescue, a nonprofit organization devoted to rescuing such critically endangered creatures.
Watch the video below