Two Orangutans Rescued from Forest Fire in West Borneo


The International Animal Rescue (IAR) team in Indonesia has carried out an emergency rescue of two orangutans found stranded as a result of the forest and land fires currently raging through West Borneo. The rescue operation was carried out in collaboration with the West Kalimantan Conservation Agency (BKSDA) of the West Kalimantan Regional Conservation Section (SKW). The orangutans, both estimated to be 20 years old, have been named Bara (male) and Arang (female) by our team.

The orangutans were discovered on September 16th by our team whilst on fire patrols. They were found clinging desperately to the last trees standing in the middle of a burnt area of rainforest. Seeing the devastated conditions of the forest surrounding the orangutans, our team made the decision to immediately evacuate them to the safety of our center. The rescue team worked quickly and, in less than one hour, both orangutans were sedated and safely moved into transport crates. Initial medical assessments showed that both orangutans were dehydrated and one had a bullet lodged in their face.

This rescue, amidst devastating forest and land fires, is a stark reminder of the real and lasting threat that these environmental disasters pose to Borneo’s biodiversity.

One of the orangutans is examined after being rescued. Image credit IAR.

Tantyo Bangun, Chairman of IAR Indonesia, expressed concerns, warning that this rescue was just the beginning: “Based on our experience of the devastating consequences of forest fires in 2015, it is likely that the effects of these fires will be felt long after they have been extinguished. Many orangutans will be left stranded after their forest homes burn to the ground, triggering a wave of urgent orangutan rescues.” In 2015, with the Ministry of Environment, we rescued more than 40 orangutans. “Orangutan rescue centers across Indonesia will soon become overwhelmed and recovery from these fires will be lengthy, making orangutans increasingly vulnerable, pushing the species closer to extinction” added Bangun.

Karmele Llano Sanchez, Director of IAR Indonesia added: “This is the time for us to overcome the problem of fires, which not only threaten humans by causing disease and disrupting the activities of children who cannot go to school because of the dangers of smoke, but also to orangutans and their forest homes. If we don’t make efforts to overcome this problem, the orangutan population will be increasingly threatened. For nearly two months our team has been working hard 24 hours a day, without a break, to secure a rehabilitation site away from fires, but the work to save all the orangutans threatened by fire has just begun.”

The aftermath of forest fires in the area of the rescue. Image credit IAR.

Rescued orangutans Bara and Arang are currently undergoing medical observation and treatment at our rescue and rehabilitation center. Because both orangutans are wild, they do not require lengthy rehabilitation and we hope to soon return them to the freedom of the forest. Once deemed healthy, both orangutans will be translocated into the safety of Gunung Palung National Park (TANAGUPA).

Gunung Palung National Park is a good release site for these orangutans based on the results of extensive surveys, showing plentiful food, space and biodiversity. The status as a National Park will also guarantee the safety and protection of the orangutans.

Featured image: One of the rescued orangutans. Image credit IAR.

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At International Animal Rescue we do exactly what our name says – we save animals from suffering around the world. Our work includes cutting free and caring for dancing bears in India, rescuing primates from captivity in Indonesia and sterilising and vaccinating stray dogs and cats in developing countries. Wherever possible we return rescued animals to their natural environment but we also provide a permanent home for animals that can no longer survive in the wild. As human populations expand, wildlife comes under increasing threat. By rescuing individual animals belonging to species like the orangutan and reintroducing them into protected areas in the wild, our work also plays a role in the conservation of the species as a whole. Click to see author's profile.

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