As the fires of the Indonesian island of Borneo burn on, the fleeing wildlife is getting increasingly desperate, taking any refuge possible from the flames. One particular family of orangutans encountered a group of frightened villagers, who proceeded to attack out of fear.
“The villagers threw things at the terrified mother before attempting to capture and tie her up,” International Animal Rescue (IAR) said, as reported by ABC News. A team from IAR reached the orangutan family, who were surrounded by a crowd of almost 100 locals; they quickly anesthetized the primates and took them away from the village.
“The [orangutans] have now been translocated and released into a safe area of protected rainforest and are being monitored by a conservation team to ensure that they are recovering well from their terrible ordeal,” the IAR team added.
There’s a haze hanging over Indonesia right now. In a depressing cycle, vast swaths of forest are being set ablaze and burned down by those seeking to extract palm oil, an unfortunately very valuable commercial product. The extremely dry season this year, produced as a result of a particularly strong El Niño event, has only exacerbated things.
As a result of this ongoing travesty, the wildlife in the forests has been severely disrupted, and many are fleeing their habitats and encountering humans, with deeply unpleasant results. Although clashes between wild animals and humans living near to each other aren’t new – with elephants and tigers both falling foul of trigger-happy people – the scale of these fires appears to be driving animals out towards fearful, territorial human populations on an unprecedented scale.
Although previous studies have indicated that the primary reasons villagers give for killing orangutans are “self-defense,” “fear” and “interfering with crops,” a previous study on the Kalimantan region of Indonesia shows that many villagers wish to simply eat the primates.
Image credit: A young orangutan in the Borneo jungle. Kjersti Joergensen/Shutterstock
A combination of deforestation, palm oil plantation activities, hunting, and poaching have already left the Borneo orangutan an endangered species. A PLOS ONE study of the Bornean orangutan reveals that only 22% of their entire population live in specially protected areas; 49% of the population will be lost if all of their natural forest habitat outside of the protected areas is destroyed. The overwhelming forest fires will no doubt fan the flames of their extinction.
Fortunately, this particular story has a happy ending.
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Top image credit: Facebook/International Animal Rescue
[H/T: ABC News]