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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Two captive orangutans are rescued in Central Java

Two critically endangered Bornean orangutans have been rescued after spending years in small, barren cages in Central Java. The rescue operation, led by members of the Central Java and West Kalimantan Conservation Agencies (BKSDA), was supported by a team from IAR Indonesia.

The two large male orangutans, named Samson and Boboy, were recovered from different private locations where they had been kept for years in captivity after being caught from the wild.

The primates were transferred to IAR’s Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang Regency in West Borneo. They were transported via ferry from Tanung Emas Port in Semarang and arrived safely in Ketapang the following day.

Sadtata Noor Adirahmanta, Head of the West Kalimantan BKSDA, said the agency had ensured that the cages, equipment and health facilities at IAR’s rehabilitation centre were of the highest standard to guarantee the well-being of the protected animals. All administrative processes were completed by the West Kalimantan BKSDA to ensure that the animals could travel swiftly and smoothly to their new home.

Temia, IAR Indonesia veterinarian, examined the two orangutans before their journey. She explained that Samson and Boboy, who are both estimated to be 20 years old, had undergone medical examinations which included physical and laboratory checks to detect potential rabies and tuberculosis. This examination was carried out by the Semarang Class I Agricultural Quarantine Centre as a requirement that must be fulfilled before leaving for Ketapang.

"On arrival at our centre in Ketapang, they will spend two months in quarantine. They will receive a more thorough medical examination and specific treatment. They will be kept under close observation," Temia explained. She added that both orangutans showed signs of malnutrition which had resulted in stunted growth and susceptibility to various diseases.

Their poor health was also the result of being confined for years in narrow, sub-standard cages, Temia said. “Based on our observations, their basic needs as protected animals were not met,” she commented.

Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia, said: “IAR has been rescuing orangutans in West Kalimantan for more than ten years. It’s very sad to see individuals like Samson and Boboy who should be living free in their natural habitat but instead have been confined to cages for years. The rehabilitation process for rescued orangutans is long and complicated. It will be extremely difficult for an orangutan that has been locked in a cage all its life to learn how to survive in the wild.

“Plus, if the orangutans have a disease or permanent disability as a result of poor care during their years in captivity, they will never be able to return to their natural habitat. They will have to live in our sanctuary for the rest of their lives.”

“Nevertheless, we are very happy and proud to be able to participate in this orangutan rescue effort to help give them the chance of a much better life. We hope that communities can continue to play a role and participate in preserving orangutans and their habitat. Indonesia is home to all three species of orangutans which is something to be extremely proud of.”

Darmanto, Head of Central Java BKSDA, said that the existence of the two adult orangutans had been verified back in October 2019. The BKSDA then reported the illegal captivity to the Director General of Natural Resources and Ecosystem Conservation (KSDAE) and the Director of Conservation and Biodiversity (KKH) of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to seek direct instructions regarding their rescue. The rescue operation was the result of cooperation between the various government bodies and IAR Indonesia in a joint effort to rescue individuals of this charismatic species whose population is increasingly threatened by habitat destruction, hunting, trade and illegal pet ownership.

Sadtata Noor Adirahmanta concluded: “We are pleased to have been able to move these two orangutans to IAR’s orangutan conservation centre. However, it remains a concern that members of the public are still keeping protected wildlife as pets. We need to foster greater awareness in the community of the need to preserve endangered species like the orangutan in their natural habitat.”