Rescuers Spot Baby Orangutan In Cardboard Box, Realize There’s Still Time To Save Him

International Animal Rescue

When the animal rescue team first saw Gito, they initially thought he was dead. The baby orangutan looked almost mummified, and it became clear he was in dire need of help. But the veterinary clinic was nine hours away. Rescuers didn’t know if he would make it, but they had to try.

ADVERTISEMENT

Saviors Of Wild Animals

International Animal Rescue

International Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to saving wild animals from inhumane and life-threatening situations around the world. Based in the UK, IAR has teams in India, Indonesia, and Malta where they carry out rescue and rehabilitation operations. It was the Indonesia team that found baby Gito.

Another Victim Of Poachers

Wikimedia Commons

The IAR team was notified there was a baby orangutan that needed help in the West Borneo village of Merawa, about 170km from their orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang. Apparently, the village chief had bought Gito to keep as a pet — which meant his mother had probably been killed by the poacher who caught him. It was not the first time the team had seen a situation like this — or so they thought.

Between Life And Death

International Animal Rescue

When rescuers arrived at the village, they spotted the baby orangutan inside a cardboard box in someone’s backyard. The sun was blazing, and Gito had no shade. But the situation looked worse and worse as they approached. The baby seemed dead. “He was lying corpse-like with his arms folded across his chest,” reads the IAR website. His skin was grey and flaking, and he was almost hairless. It was a heartbreaking sight.

In A State Of Deep Neglect

International Animal Rescue

After speaking to the villagers, the rescue team learned the baby orangutan had been bought for less than $30 and had been fed only condensed milk. The cardboard box was soaked in urine, as was Gito. It became clear he was not going to survive much longer. But, according to Indonesian law, the team couldn’t take him without the presence of a forestry official. So they made a crucial call.

ADVERTISEMENT

Long Journey, Uncertain Outcome

International Animal Rescue

Rescuers called the Forestry Department and explained the situation, detailing Gito’s critical condition. Luckily, the department allowed them to transport the baby to the clinic without an accompanying official. The orangutan was bundled up and loaded onto a motorcycle — but his survival was still a gamble. The clinic was nine hours away.

A Myriad Of Health Problems

International Animal Rescue

Miraculously, the baby orangutan survived the trip to the clinic. As they arrived, veterinary staff was ready to begin life-saving treatment. They put Gito on a drip to rehydrate him and he was given an extensive check-up. It was then they realized he was suffering from sarcoptic mange, a parasitic skin disease that causes extreme irritation. To top it all off, he was severely malnourished. Saving his life would be an uphill battle.

Hard Work And Gentle Care

International Animal Rescue

Clinic staff began massaging coconut oil into Gito’s skin to soothe and soften it. It was an arduous task, made harder by the fact that the baby was still in shock and unable to relax his limbs. He let out harrowing little chirps of pain and fear and hung on to a worker’s hand as they tried to help him sit upright. But the hard work eventually paid off.

The Miraculous Recovery

International Animal Rescue

After months of medication, proper nutrition, and 24-hour care, baby Gito finally regained his health. It has now been three years since he was rescued, and he looks like a completely different ape. His hair grew back a bright orange, and his skin is supple and healthy. Best of all, he is no longer the scared little orangutan that looked ready to die.

ADVERTISEMENT

A New Stage Of His Life Begins

International Animal Rescue

These days, Gito can be seen climbing from tree to tree in IAR’s protected forest sanctuary. He is a playful little orangutan who loves fruit snacks and likes to take his friends on adventures to the top of the trees. Sadly, though, losing his mother meant losing his guide and teacher. He has much to learn before he can have a shot at surviving in the wild.

Doing A Mother's Job

International Animal Rescue

IAR’s orangutan rehabilitation program focuses on helping orphaned orangutans learn the necessary skills to survive in a wild habitat. Baby orangutans usually spend the first six or seven years of their lives with their mothers, who teach them everything from climbing to foraging to building nests. This job now is the responsibility of the IAR caretakers. Fortunately, according to them, Gito is a fast learner.

Making Progress

International Animal Rescue

“He is learning fast — currently on his list to learn is how to forage the forest for food,” said Lis Key, communications manager for IAR. “Then after that, it will be how to make a nest for the night.” He will remain at the center for several more years before he can be evaluated for re-release into the wild. And he’s not the only orangutan on this journey.

Habitats In Danger

Oil Palm Concession

In recent years, IAR has seen a sharp increase in the number of orphaned orangutans in need of rescue and protection. There are many factors causing this, but the biggest is the rapid loss of their habitat. As a developing nation, Indonesia’s industry is growing, which has led to massive deforestation efforts. This has created a devastating domino effect.

ADVERTISEMENT

At Bigger Risk Than Ever Before

Flickr/everyoneisgone

Much of the rainforest in Indonesia has been cut down to make way for palm oil production. The deforestation has led to an increase in wildfires, which further decimate the orangutans’ habitat. This means the reclusive apes have no choice but to get closer to villages, where they are at risk of poachers who steal the babies to sell as pets. Now, all orangutan species are in critical danger.

What We Can Do

Flickr/cuatrok77

Orangutans are Asia’s only great ape. But the region’s economic development has profoundly threatened their existence. A century ago, there were more than 230,000 orangutans living across Southeast Asia. Today, only 20% of the population remains. Palm oil production is one of the major culprits. To help curb this problem, environmentalists urge consumers to only buy palm oil-free products or products certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

ADVERTISEMENT