These great apes are close to extinction

The name orangutan, translated in Malay, means “person of the forest.” Unfortunately, that forest has been shrinking rapidly, making the great ape critically endangered.

11/8/2019 10:40:00 PM

Orangutans are being threatened at one of the world's largest rainforests in Indonesia. The fires in Borneo are a largely man-made phenomenon to grow a valuable cash-crop, but it’s putting the endangered animal at risk.

The name orangutan, translated in Malay, means “person of the forest.” Unfortunately, that forest has been shrinking rapidly, making the great ape critically endangered.

“They go in the field, they rescue the animals, they do the medical check. And eventually they train the animals for a few years to put them back in the wild,” Schroeder said.The animals have had legal protections in Indonesia since 1931, but many are still captured and kept as status symbols, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In some areas they are even hunted for food.

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Fahzren, a 30-year-old orangutan, receives a medical check.Pandu, a veterinarian, observes orangutans in one of the release cages.The Sumatran orangutan used to live across the whole island of Sumatra. Now it is just in the island’s north, with most of them in the provinces of North Sumatra and Aceh.

Schroeder hopes his photos will raise awareness about their plight.He remembers coming across Hope, a Sumatran orangutan who had been shot with 74 pellets. She was blinded, and she had a baby who was a few months old at most.The rescue team drove 12 hours to go back to the hospital for medical care. On the way, the baby died.

This baby orangutan was rescued from a palm oil plantation along with its mother. It died a few hours later, probably due to malnutrition, Schroeder said.The baby’s mother, Hope, had been shot with 74 pellets. She was blinded and had a broken clavicle.

Hope survived after having surgery for a broken clavicle. But the baby’s death hit everyone hard.“That was very emotional,” Schroeder said. “You could see all the members of the team, they were totally devastated. Everyone was close to crying.”It’s not unusual, he said, for the caretakers to form an emotional connection with the apes.

“I wasn’t allowed to touch (the orangutans), but all the caretakers, they take them in their arms like babies,” he said.Brenda, a baby orangutan, was confiscated from a villager in Blang Pidie, Indonesia. Her left arm had been snapped in two.Adi, a caregiver with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, carries Sibring, a 5-year-old orangutan. Adi was teaching Sibring how to climb trees.

Orangutans are very smart. They are known to make simple tools in the wild, whether it’s to help open fruit, forage for insects oreven scratch themselves.They can be taught human communication skills, such as sign language, and they’ve been observed teaching skills to one another.

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“It was my first experience with the orangutan,” Schroeder said. “I have never seen chimpanzees or gorillas. But looking at them, it's like: ‘OK, this guy must be my ancestor. I am sure.’ ”Pandu carries Diana, an 8-year-old orangutan, as they cross the Krueng Aceh river. Diana was being released back into the wild at dawn.

Read more: CNN »

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