Pregnant orangutan protectively
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.
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.