Baby orangutans learn to survive from their moms; for orphans without parents, this rescue organization steps in as substitute teacher.
The word orangutan is Malay for "person of the forest," and indeed, these highly intelligent and close relatives of ours really seem nothing less than people. Hairy people, but still. Yet in one of the more heart-breaking realities of the havoc homo sapiens is so adept at, we're wiping out these incredible creatures. Found only in Sumatra and Borneo, the plight of our cute cousins has reached a critical point and their survival as a species is under serious threat. As International Animal Rescue's (IAR) Borneo Orangutan Rescue notes, they "are suffering and dying because of the systematic destruction of the rainforest, primarily for palm oil production, particularly in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo." Indonesia's out-of-control (though intentionally set) fires haven't helped things. (See: The Indonesian fires in pictures for more on that.)
But maybe it's not all grim for orangutans – not if IAR has anything to say about it. Their center in Borneo's West Kalimantan rescues and tends to baby orangutans who have been stolen from their mothers for the pet trade, as well as adults who have lived in captivity. They also deploy a human-orangutan conflict (HOC) team that rescues orangutans stranded when their forest homes are ruined; these guys are relocated to safe and protected wild areas.
For orphaned and/or injured orangutans, the center works to prepare them for release back to the wild. Babies learn how to survive in the wild from their moms, so the team at the center needs to teach them the basics, like how to climb trees.
"The project is an ambitious one but we are committed to rescuing and rehabilitating as many orangutans as we can," states IAR, "and giving them a second chance to live safely in their natural environment."
The video below, produced by Great Big Story, shows life in "forest school" ... although it's barbaric that there's even a need for this, it's heartening to see such devotion to these animals. And knowing that these babes will graduate to a life in the protected wilds gives hope that not all is lost for these beautiful people of the forest.
For more information or to make a donation, visit International Animal Rescue.
And you can read about another orangutan jungle school in Bukit Tigapuluh here.