Last year, a team from the International Animal Rescue League discovered this tiny baby orangutan in a village in West Borneo. He was severely malnourished and upon seeing him the workers thought that he was already dead. “It was one of the worst cases of neglect” they had ever seen.
2. He Had A Horrible Skin Infection That Made Him Look Mummified
The head of the village in West Borneo bought the little orangutan, which the IAR named Gito, for a mere £20. Gito was thrown in a cardboard box and left to bake in the sun. The box was drenched in urine and all Gito was given to eat was condensed milk. He developed a parasitic skin condition, called sarcoptic mange, which made his skin grey and flaky.
“Gito’s arms were folded corpse-like across his tiny body and he looked almost mummified in his cardboard coffin,” the IAR said.
3. He Miraculously Survived The Journey To The Rehab Clinic
The team knew he needed immediate medical attention. They traveled with Gito for nine hours to the orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang, which was 170 km away from the village where they found him.
When Gito arrived at the center, he was put on a medicated drip to rehydrate him and to fight off the infection on his skin. They also rubbed coconut oil onto his skin to soothe the horrible itching caused by the mange.
Gito was so malnourished that he didn’t even have the energy to sit up. At five months old, Gito should have been moving around on his own, but poor Gito was too sick to move. Gito is in good hands now, but there are many more orangutans like him.
The IAR thinks that the man who sold Gito to the head of the West Bornean village poached his mother, and ripped Gito away from her dead body. This happens pretty frequently, as mothers are often killed for their babies, which are then sold on the black market as pets. Orangutans are very attached to their mothers for the first six years of their lives.
There is evidence going back 40,000 years that people were killing and consuming orangutans. The bush meat trade of great apes is not isolated to Indonesia. It also occurs in Africa. About 1,000 orangutans are killed annually for meat in Borneo. It’s horrifying to look at the cut-up corpses of orangutans served up for food as they bear such a close resemblance to ourselves.
To clear vast acres of rainforest, the palm oil companies set forest fires throughout Indonesia. This is done because it’s the fastest and cheapest way to clear the land. The orangutan in the photo above was sitting on a palm tree when it was set on fire. IAR came to help him, but he died due to his injuries.
11. There Are Some People Out There Fighting For Orangutans
Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas is the world’s leading expert on the orangutan and their conservation. In the ‘70s she set up Camp Leaky in the Tanjung Putting Reserve in Indonesian Borneo. The place was named after famous anthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey, who managed to gather the funding for her research, as he had previously done for Jane Goodall and the late Dian Fossey.
For over 40 years, Dr. Galdikas has worked at Camp Leakey and has conducted the longest continuous study of any wild mammal in the world with her work at the center. In 1986, she created Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) based in Los Angeles. Since its creation, over 450 orangutans have been rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild.