These photos show an orangutan and her baby in Ketapang Regency, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, being treated by members of International Animal Rescue (IAR). The pair were shot with darts and captured on 14 October after being caught up in a forest fire and reportedly attacked by local villagers.
The recent fires in Indonesia have spread to protected areas, including national parks and conservation areas. Now that protected areas are also threatened there is little safe refuge for orangutans. According to IAR, fires are currently affecting the two protected areas with the largest orangutan populations in Ketapang – the peat swamp forests of Sungai Putri and Pematang Gadung.
IAR says fires in Indonesia are an almost annual occurrence resulting mainly from human activities, including slash-and-burn agricultural practices. The worst fires in recent years were in 1997 and 1998 and destroyed millions of hectares of forest.
"Many people believe the current fires are the worst since then. They are linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon and extended periods of drought during the dry season." – IAR
The orangutan and her baby were also reportedly attacked by local villagers. "It’s not uncommon for local people to react badly when they encounter wild orangutans," IAR's Lis Key told BuzzFeed News. "They have never seen an orangutan before and many of them are frightened – or they regard them as pests.
"In some cases villagers only throw stones to frighten the orangutans away, but others do try to capture wild orangutans. Mostly people will kill the adults and even eat them, while they will either keep the baby or sell it as a pet."
The IAR team gave the mother and baby a veterinary checkup and found them to be in satisfactory health, other than the mother being extremely thin. The mother was still producing milk for her baby. IAR vets decided to relocate the pair to an area of forest where there was a plentiful food supply.
“We have put a great deal of effort into preserving orangutan habitats and believed the orangutans in protected areas would be safe, but now we find they are still in danger," Karmele Llano Sanchez, programme director for IAR Indonesia, said in a press release.
"Orangutans and other animals are being burnt alive, left without food and starving to death, or being pushed out of their habitat into plantations and villages where they are at risk of being killed."
When the mother was released she climbed a tree with her baby clinging to her side and began to forage in the branches. The monitoring team have reported that they are continuing to do well.
Watch a video of the orangutan and her baby being released back into the wild.
Matt Tucker is the UK Picture Editor for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Contact Matthew Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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