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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Two orangutans rescued from forest and land fires in West Borneo

Our team in Indonesia has carried out the emergency rescue of two orangutans found stranded as a result of the forest and land fires currently raging through West Borneo. The rescue operation was carried out in collaboration with the West Kalimantan Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of the West Kalimantan Regional Conservation Section (SKW). The orangutans, both estimated to be 20 years old, have been named Bara (male) and Arang (female) by our team.

The orangutans were discovered on 16/09/2019 by our team whilst on fire patrols. They were found clinging desperately to the last trees standing in the middle of a burnt area of rainforest. Seeing the devastated conditions of the forest surrounding the orangutans, our team made the decision to immediately evacuate them to the safety of our centre. The rescue team worked quickly and, in less than one hour, both orangutans were sedated and safely moved into the transport crates. Initial medical assessments showed that both orangutans were dehydrated and one had a bullet lodged in its face.

This rescue, amidst devastating forest and land fires, is a stark reminder of the real and lasting threat that this environmental disaster poses to Borneo’s biodiversity.

Tantyo Bangun, Chairman of IAR Indonesia, expressed concerns, warning that this rescue was just the beginning: "Based on our experience of the devastating consequences of forest fires in 2015, it is likely that the effects of these fires will be felt long after they have been extinguished. Many orangutans will be left stranded after their forest homes burn to the ground, triggering a wave of urgent orangutan rescues”. In 2015, with the Ministry of Environment, we rescued more than 40 orangutans. “The LHK Ministry and orangutan rescue centres across Indonesia will soon become overwhelmed and recovery from these fires will be lengthy, making orangutans increasingly vulnerable, pushing the species closer to extinction” added Bangun.

Karmele Llano Sanchez, Director of IAR Indonesia added: "This is the time for us to overcome the problem of fires, which not only threaten humans by causing disease and disrupting the activities of children who cannot go to school because of the dangers of smoke, but also to orangutans and their forest homes. If we don't make efforts to overcome this problem, the orangutan population will be increasingly threatened. For nearly two months our team has been working hard 24 hours a day, without a break, to secure a rehabilitation site away from fires, but the work to save all orangutans threatened by fire has just begun. With the collaboration of the team from TANAGUPA and West Kalimantan BKSDA a worse outcome for these two rescued orangutans has been avoided.”

Rescued orangutans Bara and Arang are currently undergoing medical observation and treatment at our rescue and rehabilitation centre. Because both orangutans are wild, they do not require lengthy rehabilitation and we hope to soon return them to the freedom of the forest. Once deemed healthy, both orangutans will be translocated into the safety of Gunung Palung National Park (TANAGUPA).

Gunung Palung National Park is a good release site for these orangutans based on the results of extensive surveys, showing plentiful food, space and biodiversity. The status as a National Park will also guarantee the safety and protection of the orangutans. M. Ari Wibawanto, Head of the National Park (TANAGUPA) said: “In response to reports of orangutans affected by forest and land fires, the TANAGUPA centre has prepared several translocation sites, to allow these orangutans to thrive once more. All actions in the context of translocation must be in accordance with the SOP that we have prepared. We appeal to the whole community, if they have any information concerning orangutan conflicts caused by forest and land fires, to contact the TANAGUPA Balai Call Center at 082253034343 or West Kalimantan BKSDA Call Center at 08117576767 or International Animal Rescue Indonesia Call Center at 08115777173”