Conservation group rescues baby orangutan ripped from mom

Banda Aceh – The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) is reporting that they recently confiscated another illegally kept orangutan that was torn from its mom in the Tripa Peat Swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia and sold as a pet.

SOCP successfully rescued the young male infant orangutan on Feb. 19, 2013, after local fishermen isolated a female adult and her baby in the Tripa Peat Swamp Forest of the Leuser Ecosystem, within the concession of the palm oil company PT Surya Panen Subur 2 (PT. SPS-2).

Reports state that a group of local fishermen spotted the adult female orangutan carrying a small male infant (less than 1 year old) isolated and trapped in a single tree. With no other trees nearby SOCP said, it was impossible for the adult ape and her baby to get away without descending to the ground near them.

According to a joint press release by SOCP: comprising PanEco Foundation (Switzerland), Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Aceh, and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) Medan, the fishermen decided to try and capture the infant to sell as a pet. SOCP explained:

First they had to cross a deep and wide drainage canal dug by the plantation company, then one of the men climbed the tree, pressuring and panicking the female orangutan so much that she eventually fell to the ground.

One of the men then beat the mother with timber and in the ensuing tussle she fled to a nearby tree, only then realizing that her infant was no longer with her. The fishermen were then able to smother the infant and steal him away from the site, with the mother only able to look forlornly on.

Named Gokong Puntung by SOCP staff, the baby orangutan will be nursed back to health and released to the SOCP’s orangutan reintroduction center

Named Gokong Puntung by SOCP staff, the baby orangutan will be nursed back to health and released to the SOCP’s orangutan reintroduction center

The group suggested that although the fishermen had no real desire to kill the mother, they saw an opportunity to obtain an infant and took advantage of it. “Fortunately for the mother”, they said, “she managed to escape with her life” before being badly beaten. Often “orangutan mothers are killed in such encounters,” the organization said.

The fishermen sold the infant orangutan for just IDR100,000 (USD10.40), to a local medical aide working for another nearby palm oil company, PT Socfindo. SOCP said it first heard about the infant shortly after he was captured on Jan. 26, but that staff had difficulty monitoring the pet as he was kept out of sight behind the house. After peering through a fence, SOCP spotted the animal being bathed and moved in to seize him.

SOCP veterinarian, drh. Ikhsani Surya Hidayat said that the infant orangutan was found in a very weak condition due to malnutrition and dehydration. Ikshani said, “We already fed him with enough milk and is likely to survive, but he is thin and also has a lot of intestinal worms that we have to treat as well.”

Dr. Ian Singleton of SOCP reported:

It is unusual for us to receive reports of the actual capture of a wild orangutan. Normally we only find out about them when they are spotted already at someone’s home. By confiscating illegal pet infants like this we are able to give them a second chance of a life in the wild.

Unfortunately for the mother said Singleton, her plight could be dire. While this case is “relatively unique” he said, because she also survived, “she may not survive for long.” He explained:

She is clearly hanging on in an area where the forests are still being cleared and most of her home range has probably already been destroyed.

As a result, he said, “her own prospects of survival may now actually be worse than those of her captured infant”.

For her baby, named Gokong Puntung by SOCP staff, the future appears brighter. For now, he is being held at the SOCP’s Orangutan Quarantine Centre near Medan, Sumatra. All being well SOCP said, he will eventually be returned to the wild at SOCP’s orangutan reintroduction center further north in Aceh.

It is illegal under Indonesian law to kill, capture, trade or keep an orangutan as a pet, an act that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a 100 million rupiah fine ($10,000 USD).

The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme is a collaborative program involving the Swiss based PanEco Foundation (, Indonesia’s Yayasan Ecosistem Lestari ( and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (DitJen PHKA;

Sumatran orangutans are significantly at risk of extinction. Just last June, it was estimated that there were now only 200 orangutan left in the Rawa Tripa areas, a substantial drop in numbers compared to 1990, when almost 2,000 of the great apes were registered. Tripa is also part of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem Conservation Area, in which more than 80% of the remaining Sumatran Orangutans, a critically endangered species, are barely hanging on.


Pan Eco Foundation: SOCP/YEL/BKSDA

The SOCP is involved in researching and monitoring wild Sumatran orangutan populations as well as raising awareness over the conservation of their remaining habitat. Wild orangutan populations have been decimated by illegal palm oil company deforestation.




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About endoftheicons

The Leuser Ecosystem on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia is in grave danger. Local politicians want to allow logging, mining and palm oil plantations in this vulnerable area. Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers are already hanging on by a thread. They will not survive the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem.

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