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International Animal Rescue (IAR) recently released a video capturing the rescue of a beautiful orangutan male who had been driven from his home in the Sungai Putri Forest in West Kalimantan by land clearance activities. The orangutan, now called by the rescue team Abun, will be released into a safe forest area – once a suitable new location is found.
The orangutan has been monitored by IAR’s Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Team for almost two years after he was captured scavenging for food in a community garden. This was a regular activity for Abun and at first, it wasn’t an issue for the community, but that changed in 2016 when it was decided he was damaging the residents’ sugar cane and banana plants.
Of course, Abun did not start to rummage through the community’s plants on a whim. The Sungai Putri Forest, home to one of the largest remaining populations of orangutans in Borneo, is at a severe risk of development for industrial agriculture, especially the palm oil industry. When the land they live on is cleared, orangutans have to move to the edges of the forest and look for food to survive, which leads to conflicts with local farmers. IAR reports that in the past few years alone, the team had to rescue more than 40 orangutans from the area.
“Human-orangutan conflict is one of the main reasons why we have to rescue orangutans,” said Karmele Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia. “When an orangutan is causing economic loss to farmers, then it is time for us to step in. But a rescue and translocation operation is always a last resort … It is imperative that we protect all forests that contain orangutans and stop the rapid decline which otherwise will ultimately push orangutans to extinction.”
The rescue of Abun was, fortunately, a full success and went smoothly and quickly. Abun is safe now – but it is scary to think just how many more orangutans like him will have to be rescued due to similar concerns – and how many more will not be saved in time from the deadly “side effects” of industrial agriculture.
Palm oil, the primary threat to orangutans, can be found in about 50 percent of consumer goods. If you want to help protect these animals and their native homes, be sure to always check your snacks and beauty products for palm oil. To learn more about how you can limit your palm oil use, click here.
To learn more about International Animal Rescue, click here.