Vanishing Habitat An Ongoing Threat
Meet the star students of orangutan school — the unique rehab center where orphaned apes are taught how to climb trees and survive in the wild without their mom and dad. Having had a rough start in life these adorable orangutans are attending special classes at a school in West Kalimantan in Borneo, Indonesia, where they can learn the skills they need to survive on their own in the wild.
The cuddly creatures have all experienced a great deal of heartache in their short lives after being abandoned, mistreated, kept in cages and starved. Some have even witnessed their mothers being slaughtered leaving them scared and alone as tiny babies. The promising pupils need hours of dedicated coaching at Baby School before hopefully graduating to Forest School and being released back into the jungle to fend for themselves.
A documentary on Nat Geo WILD AT 8pm on Monday, June 23, follows the progress of several pupils as they master new skills throughout the project, which is run by wildlife charity, International Animal Rescue (IAR). The program, called “Orangutan Rescue: Back to the Wild,” sees the inquisitive apes learning what a forest is and how to climb trees in Baby School and then being taught how to find food and build nests to sleep safely at night in Forest School.
Pupils include Noel, Gunung, Tribune, Onyo, Marie and best friends Rocky and Rickina, who have been inseparable since their arrival. Little Rickina is still scarred from a horrific machete attack which killed her mother and left her orphaned as a tiny baby. Rocky had been kept in a cage and starved by his owner, he lost most of his hair after being severely malnourished and the traumatized youngster still needs constant encouragement to eat and drink. The program also features Santi, a playful young female who was being kept as a pet in a cage, she has already graduated from Baby School and is now honing her skills in Forest School. The students, who arrive at school each day in a bright red wheelbarrow, are guided by a dedicated team of vets, scientists and volunteers. The team is led by Karmele Llano-Sanchez, director of the center.
“When the forest is destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, it is easier for hunters to find and shoot orangutans,” she said. “These hunters kill the mother and other members of a family and take the babies to sell them into the pet trade. People who buy orangutans to keep them as pets are as culpable as those who pull the trigger on the gun.”
Alan Knight, IAR Chief Executive, said, “The future of the orangutan in Borneo hangs in the balance. Destruction of the rainforest to make way for oil palm plantations and other agriculture is leaving orangutans and other native wildlife without food and shelter. Our team in Indonesia is working round the clock to rescue orangutans being kept illegally as pets or left stranded when their habitat is destroyed. The Nat Geo documentary is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of orangutans in Borneo and show viewers the wonderful work our team is doing to save them. It is a captivating film and I feel sure that viewers will be enthralled by the orangutan characters who star in it and will be moved to support the work we are doing to help them.”