Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shrewsbury native fights to build refuge for orangutans in Borneo

In desperation, a mother and baby orangutan who had not eaten in days wandered into a village in Borneo in search of food. All of the trees nearby, their natural food supply, were cleared for palm oil plantations, a booming business in that part of the world.

An angry mob stoned the animals, beat them, and tried to drown them, according to Laurence E. Van Atten-Holyoak of Berlin, manager of the U.S. office and development coordinator of International Animal Rescue, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization.

A veterinarian from the rescue organization arrived, tranquilized both orangutans, and took them away. Sadly, the mother had water in her lungs and never woke up. But the baby, later named “Peni,” was brought to their temporary rescue facility near West Kalimantan, Borneo.

That center, with 50 rescued orangutans, is at capacity, and does not have rehabilitation facilities.

“We can’t rescue any more orangutans until we raise enough money to build a center,” Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak said. “We really need funding. I am putting all my efforts into raising the $1.7 million needed to build the new center.”

It would be located just a few miles away from the temporary refuge.

So far, approximately $500,000 has been raised, including some funding from the Arcus Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.

The new center would consist of a quarantine unit, socialization enclosures (secure open areas of forest,) medical facilities, including a clinic, treatment room, surgical unit, and laboratory; education and research center, a kitchen and storeroom, and staff and volunteer accommodations.