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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Massive male orangutan is found a new home in the Bornean rainforest after his habitat is destroyed by fire

Widespread land and forest fires in Indonesia during the past few months have had a devastating impact on wildlife, causing many animals to lose their homes.

Recently, our Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) was called out to deal with an orangutan in an oil palm concession. Residents from Mayak Village, Muara Pawan District in West Borneo had reported sightings of the large male and the OPU immediately travelled to the location to verify the reports.

They found the orangutan living on the ground because there were no longer any trees where he could seek refuge. He had no way of finding food and so had entered the local plantation and eaten the young shoots on the palm plants.

Since there was no other source of food or shelter for the orangutan in the surrounding area, the OPU team decided to translocate him directly to a new, safe area of forest where food would be plentiful. The release operation was carried out on 10 November jointly by IAR and the BKSDA (Natural Resources Conservation Agency.)

Argitoe Ranting, leader of the OPU, shot the orangutan with an anaesthetic dart and then our veterinary team was able to examine him. He was a large male of more than 20 years old and weighing more than 80 kg. We named him Berat (meaning ‘Weight!’).

Our team transported him into the woods of Sentap Kancang where there is plenty of food and shelter for an orangutan. In addition, there are orangutans living in the forest, but not too many, so Berat will still be able to lead a largely solitary life, which is the natural behaviour of orangutans.

During the past two months alone, our team in Indonesia has rescued six orangutans that were victims of the fires in Ketapang. “Berat brings the number of orangutans that have been victims of fires to seven in Ketapang alone. The threat of fire has become the greatest danger to the life of orangutans and also a huge factor in the climate crisis,” said Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director in Indonesia. “In addition to the environmental losses, we must also take into account the economic losses suffered by the government, the community – and the entire world because these fires affect us all.

“The rescue and translocation of Berat show that all parties have to work together to restore the forest following the catastrophic land and forest fires in Indonesia this year. People are becoming increasingly aware of the need to help animals like Berat that have been displaced by the fires and are reporting them to us so that we can step in and rescue them. But it is also vital that society as a whole works to prevent the fires before they occur because of the devastating impact they have on ecosystems and on the balance of nature.”

Alan Knight, our CEO, observed: “The world seems to be waking up to the desperate plight of the orangutan and the many threats to its survival. Now it is time for action, not words, to prevent further fires and protect the remaining forest – and for us all to play our part in saving the species from extinction. There is no future for the orangutan without its forest home.”