On April 29th, the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation came to the aid of a five-year-old female albino orangutan, the first albino orangutan that the organization has encountered in its 25 years of conservation work. The rare white-haired and blue-eyed young lady was rescued from a remote village on the island of Borneo, after villages say she strayed out of the forest alone. She’s now under the care of by the BOS, and the conservation group has asked the public for help in giving her a name.
“It is very rare to find an albino orangutan, and considering the significant conservation challenges wild orangutans face, we want that to be recognized in her name,” said Dr. Jamartin Sihite, BOS Foundation CEO.
The as-yet-unnamed orangutan was held captive for two days in the remote village of Tanggirang, after reportedly emerging from the forest alone. Villages informed the local police, who then called upon the BOS to help with the rescue. The BOS reported that at the time of her rescue, she weighed just over 8 kilograms, which is considerably less than the weight of a healthy female orangutan, and she would only eat sugarcane. But under the care of the BOS veterinarian and held in a dimly light room (to help with her light sensitivity) she is making a fast recovery; in 10 days she has shifted her diet to a healthy assortment of fruits and has already gained almost 5 kilos.
Nico Hermanu, a spokesman for the BOS, said that the orangutan’s survival in the wild may have depended on a protective mother, whom she appears to have became separated from. Orangutan mothers form deep bonds with their young, caring for their them until the age of 6 or 7, and female orangutans will often continue visiting their mothers until their late teens. Although the albino orangutan is on her way to recovery, it’s still uncertain when, if ever, she will be able to return to her natural habitat. In a statement, the BOS said "Understandably, she still has a long way to go in her recovery following the trauma of losing her mother and her illegal capture.”
All of the world’s wild orangutans live on just two islands, Sumatra and Borneo, both of which have been heavily exploited by extraction industries, especially forestry and palm oil production. Since the 1970s, about 40% of Bornean forests have been ripped up, and in Sumatra, about half of all rainforests have been destroyed in the past 20 years alone. The loss of habitat has made orangutans increasingly vulnerable to a long list of threats, including poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by over 60% since the early 1950s, with Sumatran orangutans experiencing similarly devastating declines. Both species of orangutans are currently listed as critically endangered.
It is for these reasons that the BOS has reached out to public for input into the naming of this rare albino orangutan.
“We are looking for a meaningful name, one which will best reflect this orangutan’s special condition, as well as highlight the plight of all Critically Endangered orangutans,” the BOS said in statement.
Name suggestions can be emailed to BOS at email@example.com or sent via social media by using the hashtag #albinoorangutan. Suggestions will will be accepted until May 14th, with the winning name announced May 15th.