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New FOUR PAWS aid project for Orangutans in distress in Borneo


FOUR PAWS brings first orphaned orangutan baby to Orangutan Forest School

East Kalimantan (Borneo), 19.07.2017 – Many baby orangutans in Borneo suffer the same dreadful fate: their mothers are brutally killed by humans, and the heavily traumatised babies are caught and sold as pets. But for one orphaned orangutan baby, things could have turned out worse: last weekend, staff from the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS and its Indonesian partner organisation Jejak Pulang took into their care an orphan that had been confiscated by the Indonesian authorities, and brought it to the FOUR PAWS Orangutan Forest School, currently under construction in East Kalimantan. Until his confiscation, the eight-month-old male had been kept as a substitute child by a family in a village near Sepuluh (East Kalimantan). The family says the baby was found next to his dead mother in a palm oil plantation. He is the first orphan baby to be able to move into the Forest School. After a thorough examination by a FOUR PAWS vet, he is now being lovingly looked after and nursed back to health by a team of carers.

© Jejak Pulang | FOUR PAWS | Agustina DS

© Jejak Pulang | FOUR PAWS | Agustina DS

FOUR PAWS project leader and primatologist Dr Signe Preuschoft says, “The little guy is still a bit shy, but physically he’s doing well. He’s already got used to humans. But the psychological scars from his short life up to now are clear in his behaviour: as long as we hold him in our arms, he’s keen to try new things, but as soon as he can no longer feel body contact, he either hugs himself, or hugs the cuddly toy we’ve given him. So we can see that he already had to find a way to get along by himself, as his mother was already dead. Now we have to start getting him used to a forest environment again, and in particular, we have to help him get his muscles in shape. He can’t hold on by himself, as his human ‘mother’ always cradled him and carried him like a human baby.”

© Jejak Pulang | FOUR PAWS | Agustina DS

In April 2016, Jejak Pulang signed a cooperation agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to create a new orangutan rehabilitation and release project, funded by FOUR PAWS. Three somewhat older orphans are now being cared for in a quarantine station. The project, jointly run by FOUR PAWS and Jejak Pulang, rescues illegally caught orangutans and rehabilitates orangutan orphans with the goal of releasing them back into safe forest in East Kalimantan, thus adding to efforts to protect orangutans.


Although the new Forest School will not officially open until autumn, the confiscation by the Indonesian authorities enable this baby orphan to move into quarantine station already. Dr Preuschoft says, “During the four-week quarantine period, our little boy will live with his substitute mothers at first, in our baby house. Here he will be cared for night and day. Then we’ll introduce him to the older orphans. Eventually, still with a substitute mother, he’ll be able to start spending a few hours daily in the Forest School. There he’ll learn everything he’ll need later to live independently and free. Once he reaches puberty, he’ll move with his familiar caretakers into the Forest Academy, before finally being released live independently in the wild.”

There are only around 50,000 orangutans left in Borneo. Every year two to three thousand of these red-haired great apes fall victim to the relentless destruction of the rainforest. Their habitat is forced to make way for more and more commercial plantations and open-cast coal mining. This often brings them into conflict with humans. If, while looking for food, an orangutan finds its way onto a plantation, it is likely to be killed. If it is a mother with her baby, the mother will be killed, and the baby sold as a pet.


So much of Borneo’s forest has now been destroyed, that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) officially classified the Borneo orangutan as critically endangered at the beginning of 2016. Recent studies show that the orangutan population in Borneo has already shrunk by 80 per cent, and that they will be will be doomed to extinction within three orangutan generations.