Indonesian authorities carried out a successful raid today, rescuing a six-month old orangutan who would have been destined for the underground pet market. Three suspects were arrested, connected to the plan to illegally sell the primate. Indonesia has had many cases of illegal animal trading, but authorities have begun cracking down on suspects, arresting over 20 people for possessing or trading endangered wildlife. The baby is now being cared for by the International Animal Rescue facility in Indonesia. As with most orangutans, it is hoped that it can be reintroduced to the wild after rehabilitation.
While the type of orangutan rescued was not mentioned, all species are at least considered endangered, with the Sumatran orangutan being critically endangered. The word orangutan stems from the Malay words for “man of the forest,” which is suiting considering that they live in rain forests and are the most tree-dwelling of the great apes. They are ordinarily solitary animals, coming together primarily for reproduction. They subsist mostly off of fruits, but will find and eat a variety of other foods on their foraging expeditions. Interestingly, orangutans are the only type of primate who have two separate groups of males, with different physical and social characteristics. One group grows to be the twice the size of the females, has long, dark hair, a facial disk, and are very aggressive towards other males. The others grow only to be the size of the females, and are not particularly aggressive. It is believed that they can change from the first type to the second at any point during their lifetimes, seemingly following currently unknown social cues.
In addition to the illegal pet trade, orangutan populations are threatened by habitat destruction, both natural and man-made. Their rain forests are susceptible to forest fires, as well as being cultivated into plantations, depleting the areas of trees. Orangutans are strictly protected under Indonesian law, but conservationists hope to expand the areas where their habitat is protected. It has been documented that the majority of orangutans live outside of the borders of the protected areas.