Breaking! 20-Year-Old Orangutan Marks 4th Saved From Devastating Fires In Borneo By IAR In Less Than A Month

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Heroic rescuers in West Borneo have saved the life of yet another orangutan, a large male named Junai, estimated to be more than 20 years old. The West Kalimantan Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia carried out the emergency rescue operation in the village of Tanjungpura, Muara Pawan, in Ketapang District on September 28th.

While the news is positive, marking the fourth orangutan to be saved within a two week period, it also serves as a critical reminder of the dire circumstances the organtuans currently face. Sadly, this is due to land and forest fires as a result of the abusive palm oil industry.

The amount of orangutans saved thus far is a grim reminder of what could be a repeat of the devastating fires that occurred in Indonesia in 2015.

Destruction of the orangutans habitat leaves them homeless and hungry, forcing them to venture into gardens and villages in search of food. This often leads to conflict between orangutans and local people. Cooperation from local communities in reporting the presence of orangutans is vital in order to save their lives.

There are already dozens of people partnering with the Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) in five villages. Fortunately, one of the villages has an orangutan conflict partner team in Tanjung Pura Village, where Junai was found.

Once alerted about the Junai sightings by local villagers, an OPU team dispatched to verify the report. The same day, the rescuers found the large cheek-padded male stranded in a patch of forest where most of the surrounding area had already been burnt.

The assessment by the OPU observation team, combined with analysis and mapping of the surrounding vegetation carried out using drones, confirmed that the orangutan could not be driven back to his habitat because fire had left it burnt or fragmented. It was agreed that the only way to save him was to translocate him.

“We have a team of partners set up in villages where the risk of human-orangutan conflict is high,” Argitoe, Field Manager of IAR Indonesia, said in a statement to WAN. “With partnerships like this, orangutans can still be saved and left unharmed by the people here. But because the forest in the surrounding area has already been burnt, we have no alternative but to capture the orangutans and translocate them into forest where they will be safe.”

Junai was perched high up in a tall tree and unable to reach any other trees because there were so few remaining. The rescue team used a dart gun to anaesthetise him and captured him without incident.

During the initial veterinary check-up, it was noted that the orangutan is blind in his left eye. He was returned to IAR’s centre for further examination. Junai will remain at the center receiving medical treatment and care until he is deemed fit to be released into a protected area of forest.

“Settlement of human-animal conflicts requires policies that are more comprehensive and long-term. Rescue operations or even relocation do not answer the long-term needs of wild animals,” shared Sadtata Noor, Head of West Kalimantan BKSDA. ” For this reason, the government, together with partners and the community, must be more courageous when discussing formulating concrete steps in the field that will answer the problem of such conflict. And there is no time to waste!”

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