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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Rescued starving orangutan recovers and is returned to the rainforest by our team

A starving orangutan that was rescued after fire destroyed her forest home in West Borneo has been returned to the wild after treatment and care in our rehabilitation centre. Epen, as the orangutan was named by our rescue team, has been reintroduced into the protected forest of Gunung Tarak (Mount Tarak.) Her release follows that of a male orangutan named Junai last November.

Like Junai, who had been shot and blinded in his left eye, Epen was found to have gun pellets lodged in her back and thighs. She was treated at our orangutan rehabilitation centre where the medical team decided it was safer not to operate to remove them because they were not affecting her health.

Epen was released on Monday 20 January in a joint operation by The West Kalimantan Conservation Agency (BKSDA), together with the West Kalimantan Provincial Forestry Service Unit of the South Ketapang Region and our Orangutan Protection Unit. 

She had been rescued in November in Sungai Besar Village, Matan Hilir Selatan District. When she was rescued, she was very thin and suffering from malnutrition after having very little food for several months. Epen was also believed to have had a baby because she was producing milk. The baby may have been taken from her or killed when she was shot. 

After more than six weeks undergoing treatment at our centre, Epen was deemed ready to return to her natural habitat.

Gunung Tarak protected forest, managed by the West Kalimantan Provincial Forestry Service Unit in the South Ketapang Region, has provided a release site for orangutans since 2014. In total there have been 16 orangutans released in the area.

Based on habitat and population survey results, this location is suitable to be a place for orangutan release. Apart from the high number of types of food available, the original population of orangutans in this region is still low.

In addition, in an area of approximately 24,000 hectares (60,000 acres), there are also orangutan and patrol monitoring stations managed by our team as part of the procedures in our orangutan release programme. The staff who carry out the orangutan monitoring and forest patrol activities come from hamlets around Gunung Tarak. The dozens of staff take turns ensuring the safety and wellbeing of orangutans released in the area.

Karmele L Sanchez, IAR Indonesia Programme Director, said: “It's always a source of great hope to be able to give an orangutan another chance for life. Epen had to suffer the consequences of losing her habitat to forest fires and encroachment for agriculture. However, thanks to the BKSDA and IAR, this orangutan now still has a chance to live in the forest.”

The Head of West Kalimantan BKSDA, Sadtata Noor, said: “It’s time for humans to change. It's time humans realised that we are killing ourselves slowly. All natural disasters, animal conflicts and other crises are just messages - messages delivered by nature that we are making a mess of things. Destruction of animal habitats, ie forests, will ultimately afflict humans too. Remember that animal and human conflicts are only a message that, if we don’t change things, we are all together heading towards extinction.”

Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive, commented: “This poor orangutan has suffered so much physical and emotional pain in recent months. Let us hope that now she is back in a safe area of forest, she will have a better life – and get the chance to have another baby to replace the little one she has lost.”