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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Large male orangutan rescued from Kali Baru

We have released new footage that shows the rescue of a magnificent male orangutan our team have named Abun. This footage has been released to mark International Orangutan Day on 19 August. The great ape was rescued by our team after he was driven from his home in the forest by land clearance activities. Our Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Team (HOCRT) had been monitoring the orangutan closely for almost two years after he started straying into a local community garden in search of food. "Initially the residents had reported seeing a large orangutan near the garden when they went fishing in New Kali," said Juanisa Andiani, the team’s Coordinator. "But at that time they didn’t report any disturbance so we just continued monitoring him and occasionally herding him back into the forest.”

Abun started to become a problem at the end of 2016. In response, the patrol team increased its monitoring activities. Finally, when the ape was considered to pose a possible threat to local residents and also to be putting himself at risk, the team decided to move him. By this time he was damaging the residents’ sugarcane and banana plants.

Kali Baru where Abun was found is in Sungai Awan Kiri, on the edge of the Sungai Putri Forest in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo.) The landscape contains one of the largest remaining populations of orangutans in Borneo, numbering more than a thousand. The Sungai Putri Forest is at serious risk of development for industrial agriculture and, when encroachment or land clearing activities take place, the orangutans are pushed to the edges of the forest and often come into conflict with local farmers. In the past few years, our team and the local Forestry Department (BKSDA) have rescued more than 40 orangutans from this area.

Karmele Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia, said: "Human-orangutan conflict is one of the main reasons why we have to rescue orangutans. When an orangutan is causing economic loss to farmers, then it is time for us to step in. But a rescue and translocation operation is always a last resort. If we do not protect the orangutans’ habitat, then there will be no end to the number in need of being rescued and taken into rehabilitation centres. It is imperative that we protect all forests that contain orangutans and stop the rapid decline which otherwise will ultimately push orangutans to extinction."

Tantyo Bangun, Chairman of IAR Indonesia, added: "The plight of the orangutan is a symptom of a wider threat to society as a whole. And if the exploitation of the Deep Peat Forest Block continues, the situation will continue to worsen. The destruction of peatland leads to the infiltration of seawater, drought and the threat of rampant wildfires. There must be concrete and immediate action to overcome this crisis.”

The rescue of Abun went quickly and smoothly. After being hit with the anaesthetic dart, he fell safely into the net held by the team below. They then transported him to our Orangutan Conservation Centre in Ketapang for a thorough medical check and any necessary treatment. Abun will be released into a safe area of forest when a suitable site has been found for him.

Sanchez explained: “Returning an orangutan like Abun to the wild presents many challenges. A raft of issues must be taken into consideration when we are trying to identify a suitable forest. Our team must ensure that any potential new habitat will provide legal and ecological protection for the orangutan. In addition, surveys of food availability and orangutan density are required to ensure that, once released, the orangutan will have enough to eat and will not have to compete for survival with too many rivals.”