Written by Liam Stack
An endangered orangutan who rescue workers named Hope was found blinded and near death last week on an oil palm plantation in Indonesia after she was stabbed and shot 74 times by an air rifle, according to the Orangutan Information Centre, a conservation group. Her malnourished month-old baby was by her side, it said.
Mother and baby were rushed to a veterinary clinic by the group’s Human and Orangutan Conflict Response Unit soon after they were found March 10 in the village of Bunga Tanjung in Aceh province, on the island of Sumatra.
But the baby, which the group said was found in “serious traumatic and malnourished conditions,” died on its way to the clinic.
“This orangutan, that we named Hope after thousand hopes for her future, is one of most tragic orangutans that we ever come across,” the information center said in a statement last week. The group did not respond to a request for comment Monday night.
Hope was examined at a quarantine center run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, where veterinarians said they were shocked by what they found. X-ray scans posted to the conservation program’s Facebook page show an orangutan riddled with tiny air rifle pellets.
Rescuers said Hope was also covered in lacerations caused by “sharp tools.”
“Sincerely speaking, we were very shocked by finding the result,” the information center said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “74 air rifle bullets, damaged eyes, fractured bones, sharp tool wound and not to mention a deep traumatic condition, yet she doesn’t give up.”
On Sunday, veterinary surgeons at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, led by Dr. Andreas Messikommer, an orthopedist flown in from Switzerland, performed a four-hour operation on Hope to address fractured bones throughout her body.
Yenny Saraswati, a veterinarian, told The Associated Press after the operation that Hope had two pellets lodged in her right eye and four in her left.
“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” Saraswati told The Associated Press. She told The AP that surgeons removed only seven of the pellets because it was more important to fix Hope’s broken collarbone.
The conservation program said Hope handled the operation well and was in intensive care on Monday. It posted pictures to Facebook that showed her lying unconscious on an operating table, tubes down her throat and IV lines connected to her limbs.
“We know she will be able to get through all of this, as she is one true fighter,” the information center said on Facebook.
Orangutans live on both Sumatra and on Borneo, an island shared by Indonesia and Malaysia. According to a study published last year, nearly half the orangutans on Borneo — roughly 150,000 — died from 1999 to 2015, largely because of human activities such as logging and deforestation.
The Sumatran orangutan is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which pointed to human activity as the leading cause. According to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, about 13,000 Sumatran orangutans are left in the wild.
The Orangutan Information Centre said the illegal expansion of oil palm plantations, such as the one on which Hope and her baby were found, posed a particular threat to the species. But it said that left to their own devices, the animals — which share 97 per cent of their DNA with humans — can live to be 60 years old.