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An innovative plan
to create man-made islands for sick and injured orangutans in Indonesia
is offering hope of a better life for animals who have previously been
destined to spend their remaining days in cages.
While much of the
fight to save the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan focuses on
protecting their natural habitat, for some orangutans it is already too
Environmentalists say they are rescuing a growing number of
orangutans that are unable to return to the wild because they are too
ill or injured, often the result of coming into contact with humans.
Australian zoo keepers, the Australian Orangutan Project and an
eco-tourism company are partnering with an orangutan conservation group
in Indonesia to raise money to buy land in Sumatra to create four
“islands” where sick and injured orangutans could live in an environment
more akin to their natural habitat, with staff on hand to care for
The plan is to dig moats around the land, which would
prevent the orangutans, which cannot swim, from escaping. The animals
can live for up to 50 years.
Four orangutans being cared for by
the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program have already been identified
as possible residents of the planned islands, said Jessica McKelson,
supervisor of the primates department at Melbourne Zoo and founder of
Raw WildLife Encounters, the eco-tourism company involved in the
Ms. McKelson said one orangutan who could benefit from
the project had been shot 62 times after wandering past a village on the
edge of a forest. He was left blind after being shot in both eyes, and
cannot return to the wild.
“He’s becoming large and mature and he
really needs to get out of the cage,” said Ms. McKelson. Another
orangutan the organizers hope to relocate has been diagnosed with the
human strain of hepatitis B.
But first the organizers must find suitable land for the orangutans and raise money to lease the land.
McKelson said they hoped to raise 80,000 Australian dollars ($77,432)
to lease about three hectares of land near the city of Medan, in north
Sumatra. A clean water supply for the orangutans would be crucial.
are also plans to establish an education center near the site to help
teach locals about how they can live in harmony with orangutans, which
is Indonesian for “man of the forest”.
Environmental groups blame
palm oil and logging companies for encroaching on the animals’ natural
habitat, and Ms. McKelson said villagers were increasingly coming into
contact with orangutans as a result of deforestation. She said the
animals sometimes approached villagers’ fruit trees, which could lead to
“We will be able to use this as a key education center
to educate locals with the orangutans and also educate them about
human-animal contact,” said Ms. McKelson, adding that there were an
estimated 6,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.
Source : http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/25/retirement-islands-for-orangutans/
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