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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Amazing footage shows the emergency rescue and relocation of starving orangutans in Borneo.

Rare photos and footage show the dramatic rescue of an adult male and a mother and baby orangutan from an isolated patch of forest in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo.) The animals had been left stranded and starving by the encroachment of agricultural plantations and illegal gold mines into their forest home. The film then shows the team some weeks later as they release the orangutans back into the wild after treatment and care at the International Animal Rescue orangutan rescue centre.


The trapped animals were rescued by the Human Orangutan Conflict team from International Animal Rescue (IAR.) Team leader Argitoe Ranting is seen loading the dart gun and skilfully hitting the male orangutan who is vocalising loudly high up in a nearby tree. Minutes later the animal drops into a net pulled swiftly into place below him by the rescue team. 

Vets and rescuers spring into action, working quickly and efficiently to check the condition of the sedated animal and stabilise him before loading him into a transport cage and onto the rescue vehicle for the journey to IAR’s rescue centre.

The mother and tiny baby were rescued from the same small area of depleted forest and taken to the IAR Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang, West Borneo. 

They were all found to be suffering from starvation but otherwise healthy. It took several weeks for the animals to put on weight and regain their strength in preparation for their relocation and release. 

On 11 June the male known as Brama and the female with the baby (Mama Padi) were passed fit for release by the IAR vets. This momentous event took place in Gunung Palung National Park in collaboration with the Forestry Department (BKSDA) of the National Park and the BKSDA of Ketapang.

The film covers the animals’ lengthy journey to the release site, travelling first by truck, then boat and finally being carried deep into the forest by a team of locals on foot to reach the remote location where the orangutans can live safely out of harm’s way. 

Karmele Llano Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia, said: “These orangutans were among five we rescued from the same area of land which has been granted Community Forest status, giving it protection by the local community but no national protection. We carried out a study there in 2013 and found that more than 500 orangutans are living in this area of Sungai Besar (‘the Great River’) and Pematang Gadung (‘Bluebird Causeway’) which is a deep peat forest extremely rich in biodiversity. 

“But agricultural plantations and illegal gold mines are encroaching on the borders of this protected forest and habitat loss poses a real threat to the population of orangutans and other wildlife in the area. 

“In March locals reported that there was an isolated patch of forest within this area where some orangutans were trapped. They had taken to straying into the nearby fields and even into the town in search of food. We rescued Mama Padi and her baby back in April and the male Brama and two more females from the same area in May. They were all severely emaciated after going without food for several weeks.”

Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of International Animal Rescue, said: “This footage illustrates just how desperate the situation is for orangutans in West Borneo. Without our team’s actions to rescue them, there’s little doubt that these animals would have died of starvation or been killed, while the tiny baby would have been sold into a life of loneliness and misery as someone’s pet.  The plight of orangutans in Indonesia is dire. But we should all take inspiration from the dedicated men and women working in the frontline of the battle and do whatever we can to save as many precious lives as possible.”