As a gang of local youths surrounded a 30-year-old, pregnant orangutan and her 5-year-old child, all the mother could do was try to shield the baby from the knives that were coming at them.
Right then, at the last moment, a rescue team from Four Paws, an Austrian organization, came upon the scene and rescued mom and child.
Palm oil companies that are tearing down the forest homes of orangutans in Borneo pay roughly $100 per animal slaughtered. No wonder gangs of local youths are prowling what’s left of the forests hunting and terrorizing them.
“Our arrival could not have been more timely,” said Dr. Signe Preuschoft, a Four Paws primate expert. “A few minutes later and the orangutans could have been dead. ‘The gang were jubilant in anticipation of their rewards for catching and killing the animals. These massacres must not be allowed to continue.”
The Four Paws team works at the Samboja orangutan orphanage, and searches the area surrounding one of the palm oil plantations whenever news of systematic killings had surfaced.
Some palm oil companies see orangutans as pests, a threat to their lucrative business, and have placed a bounty on their heads. numbers have dropped from 250,000 a few decades ago to only 50,000 in the wild.
Babies left alive after adult orangutans have been slaughtered are often sold to the pet trade by the hunters. It’s an even more lucrative business for them.
Palm oil is used in hundreds of products from chocolate to oven chips, but the demand for buying it at a low price has resulted in significant deforestation as habitats are being destroyed to make way for plantations.
Mother and babe are safely back in a tree in one of the remaining areas of forest.
What you can do: Check the label on the foods and cosmetics you buy. Steer clear of palm oil. It’s a huge industry, masquerading as healthful and safe. Donate to Four Paws.