A mother and baby orangutan rescued from the burnt forests of West Borneo by an Uckfield-based charity were only days away from dying of starvation.
The adult female of more than 20 years and her baby of between two and three years old were rescued from a plantation after villagers in Semanai, Simpang Tiga village complained that the starving animals were eating their crops.
A team from International Animal Rescue, whose head office is in Uckfield, travelled to the village, which was about one-and-a half-hour’s drive away from the charity’s rescue centre, and camped out under the tree where the mother and baby were nesting for the night.
The following day, in spite of the mother’s shocking physical condition, it took three anaesthetic darts to make her release her grip on the tree and fall into the net below with her baby still clinging to her.
Photos and footage show the severely emaciated state of the mother, whom the team named Mama Nam, and her baby Nam.
IAR vet Ayu Budi Handayani who took part in the rescue operation said: “It is amazing that, despite the fact that she was so skinny and weak, this mother was still determined to protect her baby.
“She had already undergone the trauma of fleeing from the fires and losing all sources of food and shelter and then she had to contend with being hit by an anaesthetic dart and caught in a net. The poor thing couldn’t know that we were there to help not harm her.”
After assessing the mother’s and baby’s condition, the rescue team decided to take them both back to IAR’s Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang. The mother was so malnourished that she was no longer producing any milk for her baby.
Karmele Llano Sanchez, programme director of International Animal Rescue in Indonesia, said: “This poor mother and her baby have been without food for many months because their habitat has been destroyed by fire.
“It is heartbreaking to see wild orangutans in this extreme state of starvation.
“We are still dealing with the consequences of the fires that devastated large forested areas in Ketapang last year. And we are expecting a long drought season again this year as a result of the El Nino, with the risk of more forest fires to come.
“We are already making plans to prevent a recurrence of last year’s fires which destroyed some of the forest at our own centre. But the horror of rescuing animals from the burning forest and seeing their habitats wiped out before our very eyes is almost impossible to bear.
“We need all the help and support we can muster if we are to save more orangutans’ lives in the coming months.”
“I hear from the vets at our centre that the mother orangutan is now producing milk for her baby which is wonderful news,” IAR CEO Alan Knight commented.
“I hope it won’t be long before both mother and baby are fit enough to be released into a protected area of forest where there is a plentiful supply of fruits and other food to sustain them.
“I do urge the public please to continue supporting International Animal Rescue so that our team in Borneo is fully equipped to continue the fight to save these magnificent orangutans during the difficult months ahead.”
Visit www.internationalanimalrescue.org/donate to donate.
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