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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Rescuers fight to save the life of a baby orangutan

A baby orangutan is in a critical condition after being rescued from an oil palm plantation by IAR's team in Borneo. Owing to the circumstances in which he was found, the poorly infant is clearly the baby of a female orangutan who died of her injuries after being savagely beaten. The lactating female had evidently been attacked while trying to protect her baby and rescuers had feared that he would never be found.

Baby orangutan Andes clinging to lifeHowever, only two days after the mother's death, news came in about the baby. Workers at the plantation where the female had been found told the team he was being kept at a land clearing camp five hours drive away from IAR's centre in Ketapang. The team from IAR and Yayasan Palung set off immediately.

At the land clearing area they found a small camp with a few bulldozers parked next to the wooden building. When the Forestry Rangers who had joined the rescue team asked about the baby, the plantation workers claimed to have found him when he fell from a tree. An orangutan of about eight months old was lying in a small cardboard box. He was painfully thin, malnourished and feverish. He was also very weak, very frightened and barely moving.

Orangutans of this age would never wander alone in the forest. They remain clinging to their mothers and do not separate from them until they are much older. The small baby had been at the camp for more than two weeks which ties in with the findings of the autopsy of the female.

IAR's Veterinary Director Karmele Llano Sanchez said: "It is incomprehensible why anyone would want to harm such a peaceful and gentle animal - just for the sake of keeping its baby in an environment in which even people suffer from the poor welfare standards... Most of these babies do not survive for long. If the team had arrived two days later, this baby would have been dead already. Now his situation is very critical and we really don't know whether he will make it.

"The expansion of oil palm plantations is depleting orangutan habitat at a breathtaking rate and oil palm companies are showing yet again that they do not have any commitment to a moratorium on forest clearing.

"Cases like this should never be left unpunished. Indonesian law for the protection of wildlife and natural resources says that killing, hunting or keeping protected wildlife is against the law, however we never see those criminals paying for their crimes. We need stronger mechanisms of law enforcement so that companies destroying the rainforest and slaughtering protected wildlife pay for what they do."