Orangutan Who Was Shot in the Face Reminds Us About the Real Cost of Habitat Loss

Rescuers are celebrating another successful effort to save an orangutan who was shot in the face. Sadly, although he is now safe, his story highlights a much bigger problem for these critically endangered great apes.

Orangutans continue to face a number of threats, including being hunted for bushmeat; having infants stolen for the pet trade; and losing their forest homes to palm oil and rubber plantations, agriculture, development, logging, mining and fires.

The decline in habitat has led to starvation for many, and has increased the risk of violent and deadly conflicts with humans as they move closer to us in search of food.

That was the case for Lulup, an adult male in Borneo who recently made his way to a community garden in the village of Riam Berasap over the summer.

A team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) began patrolling the area in the fall, and while they found evidence of damage, they didn’t find any orangutans. Later when fruit started to appear, others who were sighted were driven back into the forest, but one started visiting frequently to eat fruit.

Thankfully, instead of letting things escalate, villagers asked officials for assistance relocating him.

IAR_Translok_Lulup_01042018_HBR_11_previewCredit: International Animal Rescue

Thanks to a team from IAR, which worked in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Centre (BKSDA) and Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP), he was safely captured and moved.

IAR_Translok_Lulup_01042018_HBR_47_previewCredit: International Animal Rescue

Rescuers estimate that the orangutan, who they named Lulup, could be more than 25 years old. While he was mostly in good shape, they found that he was suffering from a bullet wound to his face.

IAR_Translok_Lulup_01042018_HBR_05_previewCredit: International Animal Rescue

“It’s likely that Lulup’s injury has been caused by an airgun,” said vet Sulhi Aufa, coordinator of IAR Indonesia’s medical team. “We often find bullets in orangutans that venture into community owned gardens.”

Thankfully he was treated and safely relocated and released in Guning Palung National Park.

IAR_Translok_Lulup_01042018_HBR_63_previewCredit: International Animal Rescue

“It is heartbreaking to see these Critically Endangered great apes being subjected to persecution, mutilation and even murder when they lose their forest home and go in search of food. We always encourage rural communities to call on us or on the forestry department when they have a problem with a wild orangutan and fortunately for Lulup, that is what the villagers did. However, judging by the injury to his cheekpad, he had a lucky escape and our team arrived in the nick of time,” Alan Knight OBE, Chief Executive of IAR.

Hopefully he will remain safe in his new home, but his story is tragically just one of many others involving orangutans who have suffered from a loss of habitat.

According to IAR, they saved another male orangutan, Jambu, whose body was riddled with bullets in 2015.

Two weeks after Lulup’s rescue, the decapitated, mutilated body of an orangutan was found floating in a river in Central Borneo. His body was also filled with airgun pellets.

“Conflict between people and orangutans is increasingly common owing to large scale destruction of the forest,” said Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia. “But there is no simple answer to the problem. On the one hand, people feel threatened and scared. On the other hand, orangutans only enter gardens and plantations because humans have destroyed their habitat and left them without food and shelter.”

With each life being incredibly valuable to this species, IAR is working to save those they can, in addition to working with local communities to avoid conflict, but hope and responsibility for a future with orangutans goes far beyond their borders.

“Translocation is only a temporary solution to this kind of conflict,” Sanchez added. ”Situations like this will be repeated if the problems associated with the landscape are not resolved. Landscape conservation requires the cooperation of all stakeholders, not just local communities and governments, but also companies that have plantation land in or around orangutan habitat. Currently we are working with BKSDA Kalbar and GPNP to focus on long term solutions related to such problems in the area so that future human-orangutan conflict can be prevented.”

Photo credit: International Animal Rescue

126 comments

Elaine W
Elaine W4 months ago

Noted.

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

I agree with Karen N comment below

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KimJ M
KimJ M4 months ago

Horrific and heartbreaking :(

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Ellen J
Ellen J4 months ago

We have destroyed their habitat. What do people expect the animals to do? OY!

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Ingrid H
Past Member 4 months ago

Horrible.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner4 months ago

Clear the humans out of the forests. Disgusting Asian countries don't deserve to exit

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Barbara I
Barbara Idso4 months ago

Share the land. Poor animals have nowhere to live.

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Morgan I
Morgan Idso4 months ago

Who ever said the land is owned by humans? The land is for all life. So sad humans are destroying the earth rather than respecting it. #ShareTheLand

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