Breastfeeding mom's touching encounter with an orangutan has people swooning—and debating

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.


RELATED: Orangutans are pretty much the best. And, guess what, there's a whole new species.

"I visited Schoenbrunn zoo in Vienna whilst on a mini-break with my partner and son. We nipped in to see the orangutans at the end of our day who were happily playing in the enclosure, so I went to the window for a closer look and sat down by the window so my lb could see the orangutan who was roughly 5/6ft away. She then got up, carried a piece of cloth to the window and sat down with me. She looked directly into my eyes then placed her hand up as if to touch my son. I was in awe of this beautiful creature already."

"My son wanted feeding and as it was quiet I fed him whilst I sat there. The way the orangutan reacted took my breath away she kept looking at me, then my son then back again," she continued. "She sat with me for approximately half an hour, kept stroking the glass and lay down next to me as if to support and protect me.

I had to share this because my mind was blown. We may be a species apart but breastfeeding connected us today in a once in a lifetime moment that will stay with me forever. I'm also incredibly lucky that my partner caught all of this on video 💕"

The Facebook page added a story about a gorilla being taught to breastfeed by women from La Leche League, an organization dedicated to supporting breastfeeders:

"Did you know that women from La Leche League once taught a mother gorilla to breastfeed? The Mamma gorilla had been born and raised in captivity and didn't know what to do with her firstborn, and her baby sadly died. When she next became pregnant, breastfeeding women volunteered to sit beside the gorilla's enclosure and breastfeed their babies, showing the gorilla what to do. When the gorilla gave birth, a volunteer came over and breastfed her baby, showing Mamma gorilla what to do, step by step. Mamma gorilla watched, and then copied, and went on to successfully feed her baby "

The story has been shared more than 37,000 times, with many commenters stating how beautiful and moving it was. Others, while appreciating the beauty of the animal encounter, expressed sadness at seeing such a creature in captivity. As with practically every post about animals in zoos, debate broke out over whether or not zoos are helpful or harmful to the animals they house.

And like most debates, people's opinions fall along a broad spectrum. Some feel that zoos are the best way for people to learn about animals first-hand, which leads them to care more about protecting them in the wild. Some acknowledge that captivity isn't ideal, but that many animals die individually or go extinct as species without the work they do. Some feel that it's always wrong to keep an animal in captivity, no matter what. Even animal experts don't agree on this front.

RELATED: This epic zoo escape story shows how fantastically smart orangutans can be.

And not all zoos are created equal. Many zoos have moved more toward a rehabilitation and conservation model, and there's no question that many animals who have been raised in captivity would not survive if they were suddenly released into the wild. There's also the issue of whether trying to limit natural breeding in captivity falls under the ethical treatment of animals, as breeding is a natural animal instinct. And what about the animals that have gone extinct in the wild and can only be found in zoos? There are a million questions with a million unclear answers when it comes to zoos.

However there is one thing most can agree on. Whether or not you think zoos are helpful or harmful, necessary or not, they largely exist today because of human activity mucking with nature. The same nature that compels this creature to connect with a human mother, despite her unnatural surroundings. The same nature that humans are destroying to get palm oil for our cookies and soaps, leading orangutans to the brink of extinction. The same nature that we are all responsible for protecting.

Whether we find this story sweet or sad or something in between, the reality for orangutans in the wild is worth our attention. Visit www.theorangutanproject.org/ to learn more about how to help.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Among many notable moments in Joe Biden's presidential inauguration, Amanda Gorman's recitation of her original poem "The Hill We Climb" stood out as a punctuation mark on the day.

It's perhaps fitting that Gorman herself stands out in several ways. The 22-year-old former National Youth Poet Laureate is the youngest poet to compose and deliver an inaugural poem. Like Joe Biden, she struggled with a speech impediment as a child, which makes reciting her poetry in an event broadcast around the globe all the more impressive. But what's most striking in this moment is what she represents—the bright and hopeful future of America.

For four years, we've had an administration focused on reversing progress and taking the country backwards to a mythical era in which the country was better. The slogan "Make America Great Again" has always implied a yearning to return to some kind of ideal past—one which, in reality, didn't exist (unless you're actually into white supremacy). The U.S. was built on high ideals but has always grappled with the advancement of some at the expense of others, with the legacy of racism and sexism ever-present in our politics, and with injustice being inseparable from our imbalance of political power.

Today, though, we marked a distinct shift in that balance of power. We swore in our first female vice president, in addition to our first non-white vice president. And in adding the voice of a young, Black, female poet to artfully contextualize the occasion, we see an emphasis in leaning into that shift. In Amanda Gorman, we see an America looking to the future as we honestly assess our past.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.