Concerns Mount Over Fate Of Rescued Albino Orangutan

Posted on February 14th 2019

orangutan Conservationists are growing increasingly fearful about the fate of the world’s only known albino orangutan named Alba who was recently released into a protected forest. Alba was discovered a year ago in terrible shape, completely emaciated and bloodied in a remote village in Indonesia. After undergoing rehabilitation, the blue-eyed white-haired orangutan was declared very strong. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) found Alba caged, weighing just 8 kilograms in 2017 and nursed her back to health.

Target of poachers

The worry is that given Alba’s uniqueness she may be targeted by poachers on an island where 150,000 orangutans have been killed as a result of either hunting or habitat destruction over the last 16 years. In Indonesia, 26 million people live below the poverty line so there is a lot of attraction to the easy money that comes with poaching. An orangutan can earn a poacher a few hundred dollars at local markets. Mothers and their babies are often poached and then sold on the black market to people who value them as pets. Other apes are hunted for their meat or because they are seen as pests.

Release plans changed

Initially the plan was to release Alba on to a man-made island so that her health issues related to albinism could be accommodated. These include poor eyesight and hearing as well as the propensity to develop skin cancer. However, it was later decided by government conservationists to release Alba into the protected Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park after being tagged, tracked and monitored by a medical team.

Decision was a gamble

It was acknowledged this decision was a big gamble but conservationists say they are confident they will win the bet that has been made. Park officials say they have every intention of ensuring Alba is kept safe from poachers and loggers but also admit they simply do not have the man power necessary to patrol the entire habitat. The Bornean orangutan is a critically endangered after 55 per cent of its natural habitat has disappeared over the last twenty years WWF says.

Orangutan future far from secure

Palm oil plantations, new construction and agricultural land have forced many of Borneo’s orangutans out of the forest and into direct conflict with humans. A recent study found that even in the thickest forests of Borneo, the population of orangutans have dropped by 50 per cent which is evidence that the species is actively being hunted or poached by humans who have entered their territory. If the trend continues along its current lines, by 2080, 80 per cent of the natural forest habitat of the Bornean orangutan will have been lost as a result of illegal logging, palm oil plantations, shifting cultivation, mining and forest fires.

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