Rare albino orang utan rescued on Borneo island

A five-year-old female albino orangutan is eating better and gaining weight less than two weeks after being rescued from captivity by environmentalists in Central Kalimantan.
This handout picture taken on April 30, 2017 and released on May 2, 2017 by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation shows a rare albino orangutan that was saved from villagers in Kapuas Hulu, on the Indonesian side of Borneo island.
This handout picture taken on April 30, 2017 and released on May 2, 2017 by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation shows a rare albino orangutan that was saved from villagers in Kapuas Hulu, on the Indonesian side of Borneo island.PHOTO: AFP

PALANGKARAYA (AFP) - A rare albino orangutan has been rescued on the Indonesian part of Borneo island where villagers were keeping the white-haired, blue-eyed creature in a cage, a protection group said on Tuesday (May 2).

In an extremely unusual discovery, authorities picked up the female, estimated to be five years old, in a remote village in Kapuas Hulu district.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), which is caring for the critically endangered ape - believed to be albino - said the organisation had never before in its 25-year history taken in such an orang utan.

Normal Bornean orang utans have reddish-brown hair.

Villagers said they captured the ape - who has not yet been named - on Thursday (April 27). Authorities rescued the ape two days later.

"Orang utans are rare, and an albino orang utan is even rarer," Mr Nico Hermanu, a BOSF spokesman, told AFP.

"Since BOSF was founded 25 years ago, we had never before taken in an albino orang utan at our rehabilitation centre."

Pictures showed dried blood around the creature's nose, with the foundation saying the injury could have been sustained when the ape was fighting the villagers' attempts to capture it.

The orang utan has been taken to BOSF's rehabilitation centre for further assessment. Almost 500 orang utans are kept at the centre.

The Bornean orang utan, which along with the Sumatran orang utan are Asia's only great apes, is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as "critically endangered" - just one step away from extinction.

Around 100,000 are estimated to live on Borneo, which is divided between Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, down from 288,500 in 1973 and with their numbers expected to shrink to 47,000 by 2025, according to the IUCN.

The creatures have seen their habitat shrink dramatically as the island's rainforests are increasingly turned into oil palm, rubber or paper plantations, and are sometimes targeted by villagers who view them as pests.