A young female orangutan rescued as an infant when her mother was tortured and killed has given birth to a baby of her own – after being returned to the wild.
Orangutan Peni was just three years old when she and her mother strayed into the remote village of Penimaran in West Borneo in 2010 after being driven from their habitat by palm oil plantation developers.
Villagers pelted the mother and baby with rocks and sticks and threw Peni’s mother into a pool of water, filling her lungs with liquid, before dragging the pair into a makeshift pen.
A team of rescuers rushed the duo to safety but Peni’s mother died soon after and her traumatised infant, who gained her name from the village where she was found, was moved to charity International Animal Rescue (IAR)’s orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Borneo.
Over the next four years she underwent intensive rehabilitation to overcome her trauma – entering the centre’s ‘forest school’ to socialise with other young orangutans and re-learn natural wild behaviours like climbing and building nests.
And in September 2014, experts were so pleased with her independence she was able to be released into the protected forest of Mount Tarak in Nanga Tayap District, Ketapang.
Peni’s rescuers monitored her progress over the years and were delighted when late last year they discovered she was pregnant – with adorable new images showing now-12-year-old adult oranugtan relaxing in the trees with her own baby, named Tarak.
Alan Knight, IAR chief executive, said: “This is the best news we could hope for after Peni’s return to her rightful home in the rainforest.
“Her story began with trauma and tragedy but is now one of happiness and hope for the future.
“The birth of little Tarak really does make all the team’s efforts to protect and conserve orangutans worthwhile.”
Having never been in captivity before she was rescued, Peni wasn’t accustomed to people and remained wild and independent – essential qualities for primates to be able to fend for themselves in the forest.
Staff at the IAR centre, run in partnership with Indonesia’s Centre for Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) knew this meant she would eventually be a good candidate for reintroduction to the wild.
When Peni was re-released, by the end of her first day she was monitored eating wild fruit and making a nest.
The team continued to monitor her closely, making detailed notes on her behaviour from morning through till night.
Human attacks on orangutans in Indonesia often occur as a result of ignorance and fear so IAR also works to educate communities on what to do if they encounter a primate near their village.
Karmele Llano Sanchez, programme director of IAR Indonesia, said: “There can be no better evidence of the effectiveness of our orangutan rehabilitation project than the sight of Peni and her new baby living freely in the forest.
“Peni’s mother was cruelly taken from her when she was only three years old but she will have already learnt much from her in those formative years.
“She continued her education at our conservation centre and, like all the orangutans undergoing rehabilitation, she was kept under close observation throughout those years to monitor her mental and physical development.
“The fact she has now returned to her natural habitat and had a baby of her own is the ultimate proof of her complete reintegration back into the wild.”