Redlands' Daniel and William Clarke aiming to reach $1 million raised for orangutan conservation in 2021

CONSERVATION: Daniel Clarke (front) and brother William have been working passionately since 2008 to protect orangutans.

CONSERVATION: Daniel Clarke (front) and brother William have been working passionately since 2008 to protect orangutans.

"We keep pinching ourselves."

These were words from brothers Daniel and William Clarke, who were recognised as Queensland Young Australians of the Year this week for their work protecting critically endangered orangutans.

They will join winners from the other states and territories in the running for the national Australian of the Year title, to be announced on January 25.

Daniel and William have been working to protect the endangered orangutan in Borneo and Sumatra since 2008, and have raised more than $900,000, some of which has helped to build holding enclosures and buy veterinary equipment at orangutan care centres.

They have also sponsored the protection of more than 50,000 hectares of orangutan habitat and adopted more than 100 animals.

Daniel and William's books on orangutan conservation have been incorporated into the NSW curriculum, and they have spoken to more than 60,000 school students across the country.

In 2021, the brothers hope to reach a milestone they have been working towards for more than a decade - to raise $1 million for their cause.

"At the time was just this far-off dream," William said.

"We're hoping over the next 12 months we can do one more push and reach our goal.

"The other big project that we want to implement is to introduce our body of work into the Queensland curriculum, as we've already seen the amazing impact it's had on students around the country in inspiring them to take action."

Daniel said COVID-19 had made the need to protect orangutans even more urgent.

"All the care centres around Borneo and Sumatra have had to take drastic measures to help protect the orangutan population because they're so (closely related) to us," he said.

"We already know the orangutans can catch human diseases because they share a lot of our DNA."

The brothers' conservation efforts have been recognised by a long list of influential people, from former US President Barack Obama to broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.

William, who is a music student at the Queensland Conservatorium, said another great honour was having INXS composer Andrew Farriss write a song inspired by their quest.

Even having support from many big names across conservation, music and politics, Daniel said his favourite part of their work was getting young people passionate about the environment.

"We've done about 60 or 70 school talks around Australia and every talk we've been to, all the kids ... want to help and take action because they're all aware ... we all need to play a part to help our environment," he said.

William said after seeing television wildlife celebrity Steve Irwin's passion and enthusiasm for the environment, the brothers wanted to be a similar source of inspiration for the next generation.

"(We want to) pass that baton on and get another generation to continue to work for the environment, whether it's through their local environment, the Australian or the global environment," he said.

"We're all for any other passion kids may find along the way. We had one student through our presentation, she was seeing my work with Daniel (who has cerebral palsy) and decided she wanted to become a psychologist.

"Everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small it is."