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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

We have saved a mother and baby orangutan after their forest habitat is burnt down

We have rescued a mother and baby orangutan after their forest home was destroyed by fire. Our team, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) rescued the pair near the village of Tempurukan after a large area of the forest where they lived was destroyed by the forest and land fires that have hit most major regions of Ketapang, West Borneo since July.

The orangutans had been spotted wandering around the area near the village and had then entered the local residents’ plantation in search of food. We named them Mama Sifa and Sifa. The mother was estimated to be 20 years old and the baby aged about eight months.

The villagers reported the existence of the orangutans to our team in Indonesia, who then carried out the rescue with the BKSDA, assisted by some of the local residents, on 10 October 2019. 

"The evacuation and translocation of orangutans will always be a last resort and, if possible, we will avoid it and ensure the survival of orangutans in their habitat. But this time there was no other choice: both of them were stranded in the few remaining trees. A large area of forest has caught fire and these orangutans have lost their home. If we don’t act, these orangutans will not be safe," said Argitoe Ranting, head of our rescue team, who has 20 years’ experience in saving animals.

When they were rescued, it was evident that both mother and baby were thin and dehydrated owing to several days’ malnutrition. However, the rescue team, which included one of our vets, assessed that both of them could be immediately translocated to a new area of forest. After being given immediate medical care, both of them were taken back to the forest using a tractor because the distance from the community's plantation to the forest boundary was quite a long distance.

"We greatly appreciate the attention and care of the local community and the authorities such as the police and the BKSDA in Ketapang who help us in our efforts to save orangutans," said Argitoe.

Since the fires hit the forest and land areas in the Ketapang region from the end of July,  together with government partners and community members, has rescued six individual orangutans including Mama Sifa and her baby. The loss of habitat where they live means that our Orangutan Protection Unit and Rescue Team must be on standby 24/7 to receive community reports.

"When you look in Sifa's eyes, you can see the fear and despair of orangutans who see their forest homes being destroyed," said Karmele Llano Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia. This incident, according to Sanchez, was the same as in 2015 when rescue operations continued for months after the fires, and the adverse effects of forest fires on people and wildlife were devastating. "Those who are saved are the lucky ones. But there are still many orangutans who may die in the fires or who can’t survive because of lack of food or who are killed by people," Sanchez added. "We need to work very hard to ensure that there are no more forest fires to threaten more orangutans’ lives.”

Alan Knight OBE, our Chief Executive, added: “We are delighted at the rescue and translocation of this precious mother and baby by our team in Indonesia and the West Kalimantan BKSDA. It gives us hope for the future of this Critically Endangered species which needs all the help it can get to survive the devastating effects of fires, habitat loss and hunting.”