An orangutan is recovering in intensive care after being rescued from an Indonesian palm oil plantation, blinded and riddled with air rifle pellets.
- X-rays showed the mother orangutan had been shot with 74 air rifle pellets
- Rescuers were unable to save her one-month-old baby, who died severely malnourished
- The mother orangutan has regained weight after the surgery but it is unlikely she will be able to return to the wild
The female orangutan and her one-month-old baby were evacuated from a village near Subulussalam City in the province of Aceh earlier this week.
They had become isolated in a local palm oil plantation, according to the Orangutan Information Centre.
A rescue team tranquilised the mother and the pair was rushed to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, but the baby did not survive the journey.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the infant was severely malnourished and was buried in an orangutan quarantine centre.
The mother, estimated to be around 30 years old, was examined by vets.
They counted 74 air rifle pellets in her body, including four in her left eye and two in her right.
The mother had also sustained wounds to her right arm and leg, believed to have been inflicted by a sharp tool, and had a number of fractured bones.
“This orangutan, that we named Hope after 1,000 hopes for her future, is one of [the] most tragic orangutans that we [have] ever come across,” an Orangutan Information Centre spokesperson said on Facebook.
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme vet Yenny Saraswati said Hope underwent a four-hour surgery to repair her broken collarbone.
Dr Saraswati said the team prioritised the broken bone because of the infection risk.
“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” she said.
Two days after the surgery, Hope was eating fruit and drinking milk, gaining an extra 5 kilograms since she was brought into care.
Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme director Ian Singleton said Hope was “strong and tough”.
Facebook video from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme
Meanwhile, the Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry has vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the mistreatment of the orangutans.
“[The department] strongly condemns the savage actions carried out by irresponsible people who persecute protected wildlife,” a spokesperson said on Twitter.
A Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme spokesperson said the organisation had treated more than 15 orangutans in the past decade, with around 500 air gun pellets in their bodies.
They said air rifles were readily available in Indonesia and had become a major problem.
Last year an orangutan died in an Indonesian portion of Borneo after it was shot with more than 130 pellets.
A petition calling for the banning of air rifles in Indonesia has attracted more than 11,000 signatures since the story of Hope broke, with the campaigner calling for the perpetrators of animal cruelty to be “severely punished”.
A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans estimated their numbers had plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase.
Only around 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild.
The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.