Saturday, March 17, 2012

MOMENTS THAT MATTER: Terrified Orangutans Saved From Hunters

Don't hurt my baby!
Pregnant orangutan protectively
hugs her daughter, as ruthless
Borneo bounty hunters
move in for the kill

It's a remarkable photograph showing an orangutan mother and baby being saved in the nick of time from hunters in Borneo earlier this month. A team from a local orangutan orphanage had been searching the area near a palm oil plantation after reports of systematic killing of the apes.

The UK Daily Mail quoted primate scientist Dr. Signe Preuschoft, who was on the scene: "Our arrival could not have been more timely. A few minutes later and the orangutans could have been dead. We discovered a gang of young men surrounding them and both victims were clearly petrified. The gang meanwhile was jubilant in anticipation of their rewards for catching and killing the animals."

Palm oil companies are alleged to offer a bounty for killing the primates, which are considered to be pests. Orangutan skulls are sold internationally, and the illegal pet industry trades in baby orangutans taken from their mothers. WWF estimates some 200 to 500 orangutans from Borneo are sold into the pet trade every year; inevitably, the mother orangutan is killed when the poachers go after the baby.

The Bornean orangutan's habitat has been reduced by some 55 percent in the last 20 years, with a similar decline in the apes' population.  WWF estimates there are only about 40,000 Bornean orangutans left; the population is threatened by loss of habitat, as happens when forests are burned to make way for profitable palm oil plantations.

Rescue: When the animal rescue group found the 'clearly petrified' mother and baby in Borneo, they discovered a gang of young men who were looking to cash in on the palm oil companies' offer of $100 per orangutan

As bounty hunters with bush knives entrapped them in a circle and moved in for the kill, the only thing this mother orangutan could think to do was to wrap a giant protective arm around her daughter. The pregnant mother and daughter  seemed to be facing a certain death as a gang of hunters surrounded them, keen to cash in on the palm oil plantations' bid to be rid of the animals.

But, happily, a team from the British-based international animal rescue group Four Paws  arrived in time to stop the slaughter and saved their lives. Workers from Four Paws rescued the animals and transported them over rough terrain so that they could be released in a remote area of the rainforest where they would be safer. The animals were tagged and will be monitored to make sure they can adapt to their new surroundings.

Fresh start: The apes were released back to rapidly decreasing wilderness elsewhere in Indonesia by the charity group

Before the rescue, a Four Paws team had scoured the area on the Indonesian side of Borneo, which is shared with Malaysia, but found no other orangutans which had survived an earlier slaughter.

Deforestation has dramatically reduced their habitat and their numbers have dropped from 250,000 a few decades ago to only 50,000 in the wild. The very name orangutan means "person of the forest," as they spend most of their time in trees. And while the loss of their habitat by logging companies has created a major threat to their existence, a more brutal form of reducing their numbers has emerged in recent years — direct slaughter.

Palm oil is used in hundreds of products from chocolate to oven chips, but the demand for buying it at a low price has resulted in significant deforestation as habitats are being destroyed to make way for plantations. Some palm oil companies see orangutans as pests, a threat to their lucrative business, and have placed a bounty on their heads.

Everything must go: The plantations, which are carving great swathes through Southeast Asia as they cut down trees to farm palm oil for the West, view the orangutans as a pest

Company executives are reported to be offering up to $100 to employees for each orangutan killed on the palm oil plantations. While such stories were at first denied, proof of the slaughter emerged last September when graves and bones were found by investigators.

'Killing of orangutans is illegal in Indonesia but the law is lacking enforcement,' said a British Four Paws spokesman. 'Before November last year only two low-level arrests had ever been made. But in the last two months 10 more arrests have taken place including the arrest of the senior manager of the plantation where the worst graves have been found.'

In an equally tragic scenario, babies left alive after adult orangutans have been slaughtered have been put up for sale in the pet trade by hunters. When traumatized babies are found by Four Paws and other animal rescue teams they are taken to a sanctuary and taught skills they will need in order to return to the wild.

Watch 5-Part Informational Video
About the Samboja
Orangutan Rescue Center:

Video  Part 1 Here
Video  Part 2 Here
Video  Part 3 Here
Video  Part 4 Here
Video  Part 5 Here


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