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“BABY HIMBA” Infant orangutan rescued from a Forest Fire

What began as an innocent Sunday, turned into an afternoon of heartbreak

At around 4 pm on October 2, 2011, Fadilah Pendi Amat, a damar wood collector from Kasongan Village in Katingan Regency, Central Kalimantan, came to Nyaru Menteng with a small cardboard box in his hands. Inside the dirty box on top of an old blanket, lay a baby orangutan helpless and clearly in excruciating pain. His skin was burned in several places exposing open wounds and emanating a foul smell; the young orangutan was completely covered in his own filth. His condition was heartbreaking.

Pendi claimed that he wasn’t the one who discovered the orangutan and instead informed us that his friend Chen, found the baby in Takaras, a small village in the sub-regency of Mungku Baru, Palangkaraya. Situated on the edge of a forest, Takaras had experienced a recent forest fire, not far from the village. Reportedly Chen was collecting damar wood in the forest when he witnessed a fight between a wild dog and an orangutan mother. The entire body of the adult female orangutan was badly burnt and she was in very weak condition. We were informed that she tragically died in the fight, leaving her young son alone.

Concerned with the fate of the baby orangutan, Chen took him home. Three days later, Pendi walked past Chen’s hut and caught a glimpse of a baby orangutan. He was shocked to see the condition of the infant and suggested that Chen should surrender the tiny ape to the Nyaru Menteng – Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program. Admitting that he wouldn’t be able to provide the proper, much-needed care for the baby, Chen agreed which is how Pendi ended up at the gate of Nyaru Menteng, with a dirty cardboard box in his hands.

Nyaru Menteng Program Manager, Anton Nurcahyo, immediately agreed to take the infant and our medical team were called in to accept the young orangutan. Agus Fahroni, the veterinarian who was on duty that afternoon, took the male orangutan out of the box, brought him to the clinic and immediately ran intensive health checks.

The team at Nyaru Menteng named him Himba. Estimated to be just around 6 months old and weighing only 3.3 kg, Himba suffered from a high fever and serious burns to his hands, feet, head, forehead, nape, mouth, eyes and anus. Parts of his burned skin were flaky and had to be cut and cleaned with scissors. Two of his right hand fingers looked especially worrying. The injuries were massive and his broken fingers required surgery, which could not be done right away. He had to pass his blood tests and his condition needed to be stabilized before undergoing surgery.

Forest fire is a natural annual event in the dry season. Unfortunately, a large majority of forest fires are not due to natural causes. Forests are deliberately burned by humans to clear land and give way to various developments.

It’s hard to tell what really happened to Himba and his mother, or whether the fire was intentional and we are unlikely to ever find out. Nevertheless, this is yet another grim testimony of the true condition of orangutan habitats. Their forests are becoming more eroded and degraded and no longer ideal to contain life.

Today, Himba is still in intensive care. He is on continuous intravenous fluids and oxygen. Himba is also being treated with antibiotics and painkillers to minimize discomfort, indigestion medication, and vitamin injections to increase antibodies and promote healing process. Judging by the seriousness of his wounds, it’s likely that Himba will have to stay in intensive care for quite a while. The dedicated team at Nyaru Menteng is giving Himba the best possible care. They are monitoring him around the clock, patiently and lovingly. It is our hope that Himba will soon recover and be able to take part in our rehabilitation program.

Text by: BOS Foundation Communication Team

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