The Leuser rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia is a beautiful and amazing part of the world. In fact, it is the only place in the world where elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses and orangutans live together. But it is quickly disappearing.
110,000 hectares of rainforest were lost to palm oil, farmland, and infrastructure. That is the size of 102,000 soccer pitches worth of biodiverse ecosystems. And this means orangutans are coming into contact with humans more, as their habitats intersect. Some people see this as an opportunity to steal babies and sell them on the black market. Many are sold overseas or kept as pets.
Sri Lia is the wife of a soldier, and they were keeping an orangutan for three years. They got Bom Bom from locals, who likely killed his mother. Sri Lia and her husband kept Bom Bom in a cage for 3 years, and he was only allowed out at weekends. (1.48)
They finally agreed to hand him over to a rehabilitation charity so he could eventually be released into the wild.
Krisna of the Orangutan Information Centre told the BBC, “It makes me angry. These people always say it’s because they love orangutans. Actually, what my team does is a true act of love for orangutans.”
It’s hard for Sri Lia to let her pet go, and it is hard for Bom Bom to leave her. Despite being kept in a cage all his life, his mother was murdered when he was a baby. Sri Lia’s love is all he’s ever known. Mother orangutans will stay with their babies 24 hours a day, and defend them with their lives. Unfortunately, it usually comes down to that.
A rehab centre is Bom Bom’s only chance to find freedom in the wild. It is illegal to keep orangutans as pets in Indonesia, but this team of charity workers rescue dozens each year.
“Generally people want to keep orangutans as a status symbol,” a spokesperson said. “They want to show pride, they want to show power. Government officers, members of parliament, members of the army, members of police actually found keeping orangutans illegally. It’s just really really sad and really really nasty.”
Safe Rehabilitation For Orangutans
Still, nobody in Sumatra has ever been prosecuted for illegally keeping orangutans. The government has no rescue or rehabilitation program, so charities have to do the work and bear the cost.
Bom Bom is in a safer place now, and soon he will be released to the wild, where he was meant to be. We just have to hope that orangutans’ habitats won’t all be destroyed by the time he gets there.
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