Concerns Mount Over Fate Of Rescued Albino Orangutan

Posted on February 14th 2019 orangutan

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

Target of poachers

The worry is that given Alba’s uniqueness she may betargeted by poachers on an island where 150,000 orangutans have been killed asa result of either hunting or habitat destruction over the last 16 years. InIndonesia, 26 million people live below the poverty line so there is a lot ofattraction to the easy money that comes with poaching. An orangutan can earn apoacher a few hundred dollars at local markets. Mothers and their babies areoften poached and then sold on the black market to people who value them aspets. 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 aman-made island so that her health issues related to albinism could beaccommodated. These include poor eyesight and hearing as well as the propensityto develop skin cancer. However, it was later decided by governmentconservationists to release Alba into the protected Bukit Baka Bukit RayaNational Park after being tagged, tracked and monitored by a medical team.

Decision was a gamble

It was acknowledged this decision was a big gamblebut conservationists say they are confident they will win the bet that has beenmade. Park officials say they have every intention of ensuring Alba is keptsafe from poachers and loggers but also admit they simply do not have the manpower necessary to patrol the entire habitat. The Bornean orangutan is acritically endangered after 55 per cent of its natural habitat has disappearedover the last twenty years WWF says.

Orangutan future far from secure

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

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