Orangutan release

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Picture: An orangutan being released back into the forest on the island of Borneo

Orangutan release

Two excited orangutans showed their desire to get back to the top of the jungle in uplifting scenes of their recent release. Both captive great apes Amin and Shila wasted no time climbing skywards as wildlife campaigners filmed their return to the wild. These delightful scenes, with Amin looking as if he is turning round to thank his saviours, mark the climax of lengthy efforts to rehabilitate the orangutans. British-based charity International Animal Rescue described the release of the two individual orangutans as an important step in saving the critically endangered species as a whole.

The scenes of both Amin and Shila clambering up spindly trees in Borneo's Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park were the final chapter in a marathon trek to repatriate the pair from IAR's conservation centre in Ketapang. It took 17 hours by car, an hour's boat journey and then a four-hour trek on foot to reach the carefully selected release site. But the story doesn't finish there. Over the next two years, IAR will monitor the pair in their rainforest retreat by working with villagers living on the edge to keep watch from dawn to dusk. 

Such care is a world away from both Amin and Shila's abject starts in life. When Amin was rescued in March 2013 he had a chain around his beck and his body was covered in scars. He was then about two years old and had been kept as a pet by a mine worker who only surrendered him after discovering it is illegal to own an orangutan. The man told rescuers he had originally put a chain around Amin's waist but it had moved to his neck as he grew. Female orangutan Shila is seven years old. She arrived at the IAR centre after being rescued from a village in November 2014. At the conservation base, both apes have learnt the basic survival skills of climbing and feeding, as well as building their nightly sleeping nests - progressing so well that they have been living virtually wild on an island under their guardians' watchful eyes.

Dr Sulhi Aufa, coordinator of IAR's medical team, said: "The data on the orangutans revealed very positive results. They are adept at climbing, feeding and nesting. They are healthy and displaying no abnormal behaviour. This means they are ready to be released and survive in the wild."

Currently, there are more than 100 orangutans being looked after at the IAR's conservation centre, with the figure expected to rise as forest clearance for plantation robs the apex primates of natural habitat. This also means there are fewer safe release sites. IAR says it has the chance to expand its centre by purchasing an additional 64 acres of forest adjacent to its existing site, increasing the overall size by 20 per cent and providing extra space to rehabilitate more orangutans. Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive, said: "We are urging the public to support our Forest Fund Appeal. We have the opportunity to purchase a piece of forest where we can rehabilitate more orangutans and give them a second chance of freedom back in the forest. What could be better than that? You only have to watch Amin's and Shila's long journey back to the forest to appreciate the importance of our work for each individual orangutan we rescue, and for the survival of this critically endangered species as a whole."

Credit: Sourced and adapted from article at Express.co.nz 

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