A baby orangutan in Borneo has been rescued after being kept illegally as a pet in a family’s home.
After receiving a tip-off, a team from International Animal Rescue travelled with officials from the Natural Resources Conservation Centre in Ketapang (BKSDA) to the village of Air Hitam Besar in the district of Kendawangan, Ketapang.
They found a female orangutan of about seven months old in the home of a villager called Bahiyah. She claimed to have been given the baby by a third party and admitted that she had had her for the past three months. She had named her Vena and had been treating her like a human child.
Although keeping an orangutan is illegal in Indonesia, it is still quite common in Ketapang for people to keep them as pets. Destruction of the forest to make way for palm oil plantations leaves orangutans without food and shelter. They stray onto farmland and into nearby villages in search of food, exposing the adults to the danger of being killed as pests, leaving their babies to be captured and kept as pets.
During 2016 International Animal Rescue’s team rescued 12 orangutans from captivity, while already this year they have taken in three orangutans that were being kept as pets.
The mothers of these baby orangutans have almost certainly been killed in order for their infants to be captured. In the wild a baby orangutan will stay with its mother until it is between six or eight years old. Until then the infants aren’t equipped to live independently and rely on their mothers for food, care and protection.
“It takes a long time and it is not always easy to rehabilitate an orangutan and prepare it for release back into the wild,” said vet Adi Irawan, Operations Manager at IAR’s orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan. “Baby orangutans require years to learn all the skills they will need to fend for themselves in the wild. It is also a very expensive process. We are currently caring for 108 orangutans in our rehabilitation centre and this places a huge responsibility on us in terms of care and cost.”
Karmele Llano Sanchez, Programme Director for IAR in Indonesia, stated: “It’s high time people realised that, if they keep breaking the law by capturing orangutans and keeping or selling them as pets, then the species will soon become extinct.
“Anyone who is offered an orangutan should certainly not buy it. They should immediately contact the authorities and report the person trying to sell it. And if people are not willing to cooperate by surrendering the orangutan and persist in breaking the law, then the necessary action must be taken to enforce it,” she concluded.
Vena is now in the care of the vets at IAR’s Orangutan Conservation Centre in Ketapang. She will be given a thorough medical check up by the veterinary team and spend several weeks in quarantine to ensure she is healthy and free from diseases before she is introduced to some of the other babies and her rehabilitation can begin.