The expansion of palm oil plantations in Sumatra poses a serious threat to the local orangutan population. As a tree-dwelling species, orangutans are greatly impacted when their native forest habitat is cut down and replaced with flat fields of palm oil plants. Left without food or a home, some orangutans venture into palm oil fields where they attempt to nest and eat palm oil plants. Although this is their only option for survival, palm oil growers view these orangutans as a threat to their crops and sadly, often resort to killing these already highly endangered animals.
Thankfully, there are organizations working to conserve the orangutan population in Sumatra. Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) is one such organization. SOCP recently celebrated quite the conservation win when they released a formerly blind orangutan who they had rescued nearly seven years ago back into the wild. The orangutan, Gober, was saved from a palm oil field and came to live in the SOCP rehabilitation center. Because orangutans are highly social animals, Gober was introduced to another blind orangutan who had also been the victim of human-animal conflict related to palm oil.
The pair hit it off and Gober gave birth to twins in captivity. It was the first time that two blind orangutans had given birth to captive offspring. SOCP is dedicated to conserving the orangutan population and returning the individuals to a safe, wild habitat once they are strong enough to do so. To help give Gober and her twins a fighting chance at survival, SOCP performed cataract surgery and were able to restore Gober’s sight.
The operation was a success and SOCP was able to start the acclimation process for this small family, priming their return to the wild. The twins are now four-years-old and have never experienced life in the wild, so it will be up to Gober to teach them the ins and outs of forest life. One of the twins has been a bit reluctant to venture into the forest with his mother and twin, so he will return to the conservation center and hopefully be reintroduced to the wild at a later date.
This has been quite the journey for Gober and we are so thrilled to see her back in the forest where she belongs. Best of luck in the wild!
Image source: Sumatra Orangutan Conservation/Getty Images