Mother and baby Sumatran orangutan rescued from forest patch to be cleared for oil palm plantation

22 May 2012

The OIC's Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) has rescued another mother and baby orangutan from an isolated patch of forest within an oil palm plantation in Aceh Tamiang. The forest patch is due to be cleared in order to plant more oil palms.

6. The HOCRU team carry the baby orangutan to safety Photo credit OIC5. The baby orangutan laid on a palm frond Photo credit OIC

The female orangutan was estimated to be about 16 years old, and her baby around 5 years old.  The HOCRU team were assisted by SOCP (Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme), BPKEL (Leuser Ecosystem Management Authority) and BKSDA (Natural Resources Conservation Agency).

They rescued another orangutan from the same area just 10 days earlier and had returned to search for more orangutans in need of help. The pair were spotted in the forest patch on 14th May.

Panut Hadisiswoyo, Founder and Director of the OIC, describes the obstacles the team faced in the field: "The orangutans were moving quickly and the team lost sight of them during the afternoon and only found them again the next day after a long and difficult search."

3. The baby orangutan Photo credit OIC9. The HOCRU team carry the mother orangutan to safety Photo credit OIC

The HOCRU team carry the baby (left) and mother (right) to safety

The mother and baby were successfully released  into the OIC's forest restoration site within the Gunung Leuser National Park (GLNP) on 16th May. the GLNP is just 4km away from the plantation.

While this rescue is good news, it's not the end of the story.

Panut told us: "There are still a few orangutans isolated in the Sisirau plantation that need to be rescued and moved back into the GLNP forests."

Conflict between humans and orangutans is a growing problem. Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and without urgent action could be the first Great Ape species to become extinct, so protecting every individual is crucial.

"As more forest is replaced by oil palm plantations, more orangutans become isolated in forest patches. And they are at serious risk of starvation or being killed if they wander into plantations in search of food," explains Helen Buckland, UK Director of SOS. "In 2010 we set up the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) with the OIC, our partners in Sumatra, to address this problem. The team has helped rescue 11 orangutans - eight this year alone - and is receiving more reports of animals needing help all the time."

 Panut agrees continued action is crucial.

"It is extremely important to rescue isolated orangutans," he says. "If we don't, many orangutans will be killed or captured for the pet trade - a big loss as every individual orangutan counts to support the whole population... The HOCRU team will continue to dedicate their lives to saving orangutans in need of help."

Of course rescues alone are not the solution.

"HOCRU work on the frontline of orangutan protection, helping animals in peril to have a second chance at a life in the wild," says Helen. "This is vital, as there are so few Sumatran orangutans left. Together with the OIC, SOS works with local communities, businesses and government to tackle root causes of deforestation. This is crucial if we are to save orangutans and the many other species sharing the rainforests."

The work of SOS is only possible with the help of our supporters. Please help us to continue protecting critically endangered orangutans - visit

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