After Fire Destroys Home, Mother Orangutan and Her Baby Are Relocated to Safer Forest

A mother orangutan, estimated to be about 10 years old, and her 2-month-old baby were rescued after their home was decimated by a forest fire in West Borneo. A team from the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) of the Centre for the Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA Kalbar) collaborated closely with International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia to complete this rescue.

Photo: Facebook/International Animal Rescue

“After the horrific events of 2015 in Indonesia, it is shattering to see fires once again destroying land and forest habitats,” commented Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive in an IAR statement. “We are relieved at the rescue and translocation of this precious mother and baby by our team in Indonesia and the West Kalimantan BKSDA. However, action needs to be taken right now to resolve the underlying problem if orangutan species as a whole is to be saved from extinction.”

Photo: Facebook/International Animal Rescue

Due to an increase in burning forests in the area, many orangutans are losing their homes completely. Without food and shelter, many of them have begun wondering into nearby villages, gardens, and plantations in desperate search for sustenance. This in turn has increased the number of conflicts between humans and orangutan, as many locals turn immediately to brute force when trying to remove the orangutan from their crops.

Photo: Facebook/International Animal Rescue

“Conflict arises because orangutans are losing their forest habitat. They go elsewhere in search of food because they have no choice,” explained Karmele L. Sanchez, Director of IAR Indonesia. “We are very concerned at seeing how these orangutans are trying to survive when their habitat is being destroyed. We can only hope that human beings will realise that, without forests, it won’t only be orangutans that can’t survive — because the human species will suffer the same fate.”

Photo: Facebook/International Animal Rescue

Similar circumstance occurred with this mother and baby, later named Mama Qia and Qia, who were originally found in a local garden foraging for food. The original Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) team attempted to relocate Qia and Mama Qia out of the gardens and back to the forest, following the first step in their conflict mitigation strategy. However, just a few days later, the OPU found the orangutans right back in the gardens again. A site survey exposed that the orangutans’ forest home had been cut off from the larger forested area, making their known section unsuitable to live in.

Photo: Facebook/International Animal Rescue

The BKSDA team ultimately decided to relocate Mama Qia and her baby to a forested area covering more than 40,000 hectares, with an abundance of food and resources and a low density of existing, competing orangutans. The secluded area is not accessible by car, so the rescue team carried in the orangutans’ crates by foot and released them into the forest. “The two orangutans were in good condition and didn’t need any further treatment and so we agreed with BKSDA Kalbar to translocate them directly into the forests of Sentap Kancang,” confirmed Field Manager of IAR Indonesia, Argitoe Ranting.

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