Bystander’s Kindness Saves Terrified Orangutan from Jeering Crowd

Sometimes it takes only a simple act of kindness to change an animal’s life. So it was for Ael, an orangutan whose only offense was searching for food near a village in Borneo.

Ael was captured while foraging in a field that had been cleared for planting rice. It’s not clear why they decided to capture her, but it took six men to grab Ael, hold her down and secure her. Then they dragged her back to their village for a little fun.

After looping a cable and rope around her waist, the villagers tied Ael to a heavy rubber tire. They gave her no food or water. What they did give her, sadly, was a terrifying experience she didn’t deserve.

The poor orangutan became a public spectacle — an object of curiosity and degradation. Villagers crowded around her, jeering and taunting to get a rise out of her. Word spread, and soon people from other nearby areas arrived on motorcycles to get in on the excitement.

Villager taunts captive orangutan

A villager cruelly taunts Ael for the crowd's amusement

Someone erected a pole inside the tire which enabled the orangutan to climb up. She did so, of course, to try to escape her captivity. She didn’t get very far. Her frantic efforts to save herself did little but provide more entertainment for the assembled crowd.

Poor Ael had little chance of living her life as anything other than a roadside attraction until one compassionate villager decided enough was enough. This kind villager, whose name we don’t know, contacted Argitoe Ranting. Ranting works for International Animal Rescue (IAR) as its field manager for IAR’s project in Ketapang, on the island of Borneo. Ranting also oversees rescues in the area and has a great deal of experience working with orangutans. He arrived on scene to find Ael tied to the tire, struggling to break free and frightened for her life.

Ranting called his team, realizing immediately he had a rescue situation on his hands.

Orangutan tied up while villagers watch

Poor Ael had no food or water.

The team allowed the crowd to keep distracting Ael long enough to successfully sedate her with a blow dart. They then prepared her for transport and removed her from the scene to their 60-acre orangutan rehabilitation center in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

“Orangutan” is a Malaysian word meaning “Person of the Forest.” Orangutans are the world’s largest tree-climbing mammal. Once widely found throughout Southeast Asia, orangutans now are found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They are considered endangered, with only about 41,000 of them left in Borneo and 7,500 in Sumatra. They can live 30 to 40 years in the wild.

Orangutans live 90 percent of their lives up in trees within tropical rainforests. Rampant and aggressive deforestation for timber, mining and palm oil is robbing orangutans of their natural habitat, edging them closer to extinction.

While it didn’t start out this way, Ael turned out to be one of the lucky orangutans. Thanks to the kindness of one person, she was rescued from torment. IAR will care for her and eventually release her back to the wild at a location suitably far from humans and their unkind ways.

While preparing Ael for her move to the IAR center, the organization’s Chief Executive in Indonesia, Karmele Llano Sanchez, explained to the assembled villagers that what they’d been doing was both illegal and cruel.

How sad that these individuals had no automatic sense of kinship with this rare and intelligent primate. Thankfully, one person understood that an orangutan is more than an afternoon’s amusement. He alone acted when no one else would. His kindness, and IAR’s rapid response, saved Ael.

Related Stories:

Homeless Orangutan Signs Heartbreaking Message About Palm Oil

Terrified Orangutans Saved from Hunters (VIDEO)

Second Chance for Baby Orangutan Found on Palm Oil Plantation

Photo credit for all images: Thomas Burns/International Animal Rescue


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

donald Baumgartner

They're cute !! Save them !!!

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Louise Gauvin
Louise Gauvin2 years ago

Poor little angel, if I was there I would have dome everything to free this dear Orangutan! I hate when people make fun of an animal in distress! I love animals, humans can be so cruel!

Denise E.
Denise E.2 years ago

The only way this sort of thing will stop is through education - helping the people to understand about these beautiful and gentle creatures - so much of this world is so ignorant- if they could understand what they are doing then maybe there is a chance things can change?

Friedrich Kling

Linda T.:

Your comments are badly mistaken. I do travel extensively in South America and I have NEVER viewed such cruel behavior directed towards wildlife- NEVER.

Poul Hansen
Poul Hansen2 years ago

"Suitably far from humans and their unkind ways" - well, that about sums it up mankind. Kudos to this lone villager for stepping up and doing the right thing (and the IAR). Nothing short of Heros. As for the rest that just stood by being entertained????? Imbeciles.

Wendye Kolles
Wendye Kolles2 years ago

God bless you precious Ael! THANK GOD you received the kindness and compassion you so desperately needed. My prayers that you can now live a long, healthy, happy and SAFE life in an environment that is best suited to your specific needs - away from greedy, thoughtless, selfish, cruel humans. I also pray that you realize that not all humans are horrible - some of us really do care about you and want the best for you. God bless ALL animals and their environments! God bless people who are passionate about animals and want what is best for them! xo xo xo xo xo xo

amanda gill
amanda gill2 years ago

I am sorry, Linda T., that I cannot agree with some of your points.
Am glad that this tale has a happy ending :)

Peggy Miller
Peggy Miller2 years ago

"How sad that these individuals had no automatic sense of kinship". What else needs to be said?