Wildlife rescue workers have been hard at work in Indonesia after an investigation following reports from local residents of an orangutan being held captive by a farmer in the Sebomban River area in February. Keeping orangutans is illegal in the region, so the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) of the Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) stepped in to rescue the young animal.
Named Bomban after the area where he was recovered, the baby orangutan had been locked inside a small cage measuring just 50 by 40 centimeters (15 by 20 inches). It’s thought the baby orangutan had been captive here for three months prior to the rescue team's arrival, who approached the farmer and successfully freed Bomban from his cage.
One of the many threats facing orangutans is being hunted for their babies for the pet trade or tourism, and a medical examination indicates that Bomban’s mother likely met the same fate. An X-ray carried out by IAR’s medical team showed several pellets from an air rifle lodged in Bomban's right thigh, which supports the theory that he was taken forcefully rather than found by chance. Furthermore, he had been fed an unsuitable diet for a young orangutan, consisting mostly of rice, cucumber, and condensed milk.
“Keeping orangutans as pets starts with hunting. Usually, the mother orangutan is killed so that her baby can be taken,” said Karmele L Sanchez, director of programs at IAR Indonesia, in a statement sent to IFLScience. “Our education team was working in the area where Bomban was being kept and they are clearly getting through to rural communities that it is illegal to keep an orangutan as a pet. And in instances where people are still ignorant of the law or choose to flout it, our rescue team is ready, alongside the BKSDA, to act at any hour of the day or night and rescue captive orangutans like Bomban.”
Despite his cramped living conditions and poor diet, Bomban was fortunately found to be in reasonably good health and is estimated to be one year old. IAR will continue to monitor his health and carry out any necessary treatments as he undergoes an 8-week quarantine period at their headquarters to check for signs of disease that could be dangerous to fellow orangutans or humans.
“It is very encouraging that local villagers knew to report this baby’s existence so that he could be rescued and given a second chance to live wild and free,” said IAR CEO Alan Knight OBE in the statement. “Once out of quarantine, he will begin a long period of rehabilitation to help him learn the skills his mother would have taught him during his formative years. At our Orangutan Conservation Centre, we have 100 orangutans in our care, all at various stages of rehabilitation. When the time is right, Bomban will join them and his journey back to the forest will begin.”
IAR was also responsible for the rescue and reintroduction of 30 Javan slow lorises into Mount Halimun Salak National Park. Of course, the slow lorises weren’t aware that IAR was helping them, and the subsequent footage of slow loris rage as they’re released is one of the funniest scenes ever to come out of conservation. You can follow and support the ongoing work of IAR here.