Jessica McKelson, Trustee


Jessica McKelson is Founder Director of Raw Wildlife Encounters and Supervisor Primates at Melbourne Zoo, where she has worked since 2000. Jessica developed a deep passion for animal conservation during a confronting visit to Indonesia’s orang-utan habitats in 2003. “Seeing so many orphaned orang-utans and no forests for them to go to affected me on a deep emotional level. Ever since then, I have dedicated my life to being an ambassador for protecting orang-utans and their habitats”, says Jessica.

In 2006, she was the youngest Australian to be awarded the International Specialised Skills Institute (ISSI) Fellowship funded by The Pratt Foundation. This enabled her to travel for four months in Indonesia studying and evaluating conservation programs, and working with leading conservationists to develop key skills that would assist her as she continued with her long-term work in Indonesia.
Since then, Jessica has worked closely with Indonesian conservation groups and local communities on many projects, expanding Raw Wildlife Encounters as a further tool to support the work she does in Indonesia. The work includes funding for an orang-utan baby house at the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation (SOCP) Centre, developing a higher education program that allows rural students to attend university, and a working partnership with Medan STIM SUKMA University that connects students with biodiversity hotspots. She has also developed a number of programs to support the work of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre in Central Kalimantan.

Jessica’s ultimate goal is to save orang-utan populations and their habitats, and to extend that work to other animal species, which she sees as benefiting not only the environment and indigenous cultures, but the entire planet.