Thursday, April 25, 2013

Orangutan orphan highlights need for protection in Borneo

This is quite a week in Calgary for world conservation efforts. On Monday, we heard Jane Goodall talk about efforts to protect chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Two days from now, we will be privileged to meet Birute Galdikas who has lived among and studied orangutans in Borneo for decades.

As deforestation continues around the world and habitat is lost to emerging industry, chimps, orangutans and gorillas are facing real risks to their surivival in the wild. The latest arrival at the Orangutan Care Center in Borneo underscores the urgency of Galdikas’s work.

At her urging, two government tourism officials confiscated a young orangutan being kept illegally as a pet.  In this particular area, about 160 kilometres north of Pangkalan Bun, new palm oil plantations are replacing tropical rain forest.  The young primate’s mother was likely killed as the forest was cleared, says Greg Epton, co-chair of the Curious Orange? fundraising events in Calgary Saturday and Sunday. The man who had kept the orangutan as a pet bought him from a palm oil worker for the equivalent of $35.

“It is heartbreaking to think that this was the value placed on  (his) freedom and his mother’s life,” said Epton.

The Care Centre’s veterinarians estimated that Jackat, as he was later named, was less than one year of age.  He was dehydrated, overheated, and had diarrhea. He had wounds on his body and crusts of dark sap, dried blood, and tree gum stuck to his body.

After attention from veterinarians and caregivers, Jackat has started regaining his health, says Epton.  He’s eating, sleeps frequently, and is strong enough to walk about on his own, but he is still a little unco-ordinated.  He sleeps in a basket with blankets, stuffed animals and another, smaller baby orangutan who arrived on the same day.