New year sees the start of a new life for Mely
Just two months after she was rescued by IAR's team in Indonesia, Mely the orangutan is learning to enjoy life and forget her miserable past.
The rescue team found Mely in a remote village in West Kalimantan, kept captive by a heavy chain padlocked around her neck. She had spent 15 years chained up on a filthy balcony after being caught from the wild by a fisherman. He had shot her mother and taken Mely home as a pet for his children where she was fed on noodles and scraps and soon forgotten by the family once she was no longer a cute cuddly baby.
Help finally came for Mely on Friday 22 October when IAR's rescue team arrived, armed with the official licence to confiscate her and accompanied by members of the local police department who are required to be in attendance whenever a captive orangutan is seized.
Mely was brought to IAR's orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang and soon settled in. She was immediately able to do things she had never done before, like touch the hand of another orangutan, climb higher than one metre off the ground and sleep in a bed of leaves as she would in the wild.
When she first arrived, Mely's steps were very deliberate and slow because she literally had to learn how to walk and climb, but she was soon flying around her enclosure with ease and now has no problems climbing to the top. She gradually started to reveal her playful streak and spends hours swinging from tyres and ropes suspended from the roof.
The team at the centre report that Mely has a very sweet disposition and it is hard to believe she came from such a horrific background. She always comes over 'to say hello' whenever anyone greets her and she is incredibly gentle. Sometimes when cleaning the enclosures, the orangutans will try to grab the rakes and brooms to play with them - or in many cases to tear them apart - and sometimes Mely tries to grab at them too. The difference is that Mely always promptly lets go and looks apologetic as soon as she is scolded.
Mely's new life is still just beginning. She has yet to be introduced to some of the other orangutans in the rescue centre, but it is hoped that soon she will be able to interact and socialise with them – a huge step for an animal that has lived a solitary life ever since she was snatched from the wild as a baby.
And in the New Year International Animal Rescue will be working on plans to build a new rehabilitation centre on 60 acres of nearby forest. Here there will be semi-natural enclosures where Mely and the other orangutans can roam freely, climbing the trees and developing the skills and behaviour nature gave them. For some of the orangutans, this will be another giant step towards their eventual return to the wild. For Mely, years of human contact and physical and mental deprivation may mean it is too late for her to be released, but only time will tell. Nevertheless, the new centre will give her the next best thing – freedom to behave as an orangutan should, as well as security and care to keep her safe and well.
Alan Knight, Chief Executive of IAR, says: "Mely's life has already changed beyond recognition and she is a much happier orangutan than she was two months ago. And her life will be transformed once again when our new centre is built. I hope everyone who knows Mely story will make a resolution to support our orangutan rescue project so that it's not too long before she can climb the trees and build herself a nest in the branches."