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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Help comes too late to save a savagely beaten orangutan found on an oil palm plantation in Borneo

Rescuers in Borneo are lamenting the loss of a female orangutan who had been so savagely beaten that she died from her horrific injuries.

The female orangutan was given emergency medical attention on siteWhen a call for help came in from Fauna and Flora International- Indonesian Programme Ketapang (FFI-IP), the Indonesian team from UK charity International Animal Rescue responded immediately. FFI-IP had received reports from a local NGO (Katulistiwa Kota Kita) of a seriously injured orangutan found in an oil palm plantation a few hours' drive from IAR's rescue centre.

The rescuers from IAR, FFI-IP, Yayasan Palung and the local NGO set off straight away (Friday 4 June). However, after three hours they were forced to stop for the night and wait for a guide to join them who could lead them to the exact location. After a short river crossing the team reached the orangutan at 7am the following morning.

Plantation workers told the rescuers they had found the adult female tied up with wire and in a terrible condition. They had covered her in a blanket and made a fire near her to try to keep her warm. Tragically though, she was in such a bad way that she gave no reaction when IAR's team arrived. She was lying on the ground next to a toilet, showing barely any signs of life.

When IAR's vet examined the orangutan's wounds he found that the ones in her head were very deep, infected and necrotic with a brown, foul-smelling discharge. Such serious injuries could only have been caused by a beating with an iron bar. She also had very deep cuts to her hands that must have been caused by a large knife or a parang (machete). It is likely that female had been attacked in order to steal her baby. She was still producing milk so it could not have been long since the infant had been taken from her. The wounds were days old, or a week or two at most.

She suffered from deep infected head woundsSince then, the orangutan had probably been wandering in the forest searching for her baby, while the wounds became infected and she got weaker and weaker. The infection was so bad that by the time IAR's team reached her she was barely alive.

The vet immediately gave her painkillers and antibiotics and put in an IV drip. It would be four hours before they would get her to the centre where she could receive more help. But tragically, her condition was already critical. She was scarcely breathing and, only one hour into the journey, she gave up the fight and died.

Dr Karmele Llano Sanchez, IAR's Veterinary Director in Indonesia, said: "This is a sickening example of what is happening to orangutans in Borneo: they are losing their habitat, their freedom – and their lives – to the relentless spread of oil palm plantations.

Barely breathing and unresponsive to our teams' efforts"Who knows what has happened to the baby of this poor female? It could have been sold as a pet, or even shipped to Java or on to another country. We know that many orangutans are traded and illegally exported to other countries from the local Kendawangan port, particularly to Malaysia and Thailand.

"In Indonesia killing an orangutan, hunting, buying or selling or keeping it as pet is against the law. However there is a distinct lack of law enforcement and people continue to do it. It seems that it will only stop when there isn't a single orangutan left to exploit."

Alan Knight, IAR's Chief Executive in the UK, said: "If only our team had reached this poor female sooner, the might have been able to save her. The people that committed this ghastly crime should hang their heads in shame for causing such terrible suffering to a creature that is man's closest relative. Such cruelty is beyond belief."