Saturday 21 September 2019

Albino orangutan released back into wild

Back home: Alba in the forest in Central Kalimantan
Back home: Alba in the forest in Central Kalimantan

Harriet Alexander

Conservationists in Indonesia are celebrating after the world's only known albino orangutan was released into the jungle in Borneo, after being found starving and dehydrated in an Indonesian village.

Alba, as her keepers named her - Spanish for dawn - was rescued in April 2017.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation nursed her back to health, feeding her and restoring her strength. She tripled in weight over the course of the 20 months she was in their care.

The foundation originally planned to create a 12-acre "forest island" for Alba, rather than release her into truly natural habitat, because of health issues related to her albinism.

Veterinarians worried that she would be impaired by her poor sight and hearing, and struggle with the possibility of skin cancer.

But the government's natural resources conservation agency and other agencies decided it was appropriate to release Alba into the wild because of her strong physical condition and intrinsically wild behaviour.

She will be electronically tracked and regularly monitored by a medical team.

Conservationists said the major challenge now was protecting her from poachers.

Patrols of Alba's new home by national park and conservation agency staff will aim to deter poachers, though they admit the number of personnel is limited.

Orangutans, known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, are critically endangered and only found in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

Irish Independent

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