The story of Pony has been floating around the Internet for some time. Although it seems wrapped up in urban legend or has perhaps been treated with skepticism through sheer disbelief, numerous sources have told the deeply dark and distressing story of Pony.
She was used as a sex slave in the village of Kareng Pangi, Central Kalimantan in the depths of Indonesian Borneo. Men visiting the brothel would have a choice to pay for sex with a woman or Pony.
She was rescued in early 2003, when she was around six or seven years old. They found her chained to the wall, with all her hair shaved off and her body covered in mosquito bites and sores.
Numerous attempts to rescue Pony by animal rights groups and local police were thwarted by the villagers who saw Pony as a kind of “good luck charm.” VICE reported that eventually the village was stormed by 35 policemen armed with AK-47s, along with the Central Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority.
Image credit: Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.
Since then, Pony has been part of a long rehabilitation programme at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Center near Palangkaraya. The process at the center aims to gradually ease them into the wild, usually starting with a first socialization enclosure, followed by a semi-independent “pre-release island” before finally being returned to the wild.
Coming from such a traumatic and human environment, she struggled for the first few years, often relying on the center’s technicians for food. Many attempts to introduce her to the pre-release island were unsuccessful. However, in June 2013 it was reported that a successful introduction had been made, with her apparently seeming healthy and progressing with social skills.
Of course, this a particularly dark and (with all hope) anomalous example. Even though significantly less sinister, there are still estimates that claim that over 20,000 orangutans have been caught up in the illegal exotic animal pet trade over the past ten years.
Image credit: Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation