A rare orangutan has been blinded after being shot 74 times by a pellet gun as she tried to protect her four-week-old baby.
The incident occurred as cruel hunters tried to poach the orangutan and her infant, leaving the mother with four pellets in her left eye and two in her right. Unable to feed her baby as a result of the injuries, the young orangutan sadly became malnourished and died from an infection.
A team of rescuers managed to save the mother though, treating her open wounds and performing surgery to fix her broken collarbone. According to vet Yenny Saraswati, the animal – which rescuers named Hope – also had a number of injuries believed to have been deliberately caused by sharp objects.
According to Sapto Aji Prabowo, head of the Aceh provincial conservation agency, villagers spotted the badly wounded orangutan seeking shelter in a farm, along with its malnourished, month-old baby.
Rescuers managed to take the two animals to an orangutan veterinary clinic in the nearby Sibolangit district, in north Sumatra, The Sun reports.
Sadly, Hope cannot be released back into the wild due to her injuries.
Vet Saraswati, who works with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, said that a number of pellets, unfortunately, had to be left in Hope, as the team had to prioritise fixing her collar bone.
According to the conservation program, pellet and air guns are easily available, and often used to shoot and kill wildlife in Indonesia.
In the last 10 years, they have treated more than 15 orangutans with similar injuries to Hope, totaling around 500 air gun pellets in their bodies. Countless more will sadly have not been rescued.
In 2018, an orangutan died in Borneo after being shot around 130 times by an air gun, which was the second known killing of an orangutan that year.
A study last year revealed the numbers of orangutans in the wild has drastically reduced since 1999, with more than 100,000 being wiped out due to loss of land and wildlife.
As the industries behind palm oil and paper continue to expand, thereby encroaching on the animals’ habitats, conflicts have been steadily increasing between the people behind the corporations and conservationists working to protect the land.
In Sumatra, there are thought to be around 13,400 orangutans left in the wild. The species is listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of endangered animals.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.