Behind The News

Persecuted for palm oil

Sutanta Aditya, a photographer who works with AFP, took these astonishing photos of a critically endangered Sumatran orangutan being treated at conservation centre in western Indonesia after the primate was found with air gun pellets embedded in his body. Aditya describes how he saw the creature being treated.

AFP BLOGThe primate had already undergone surgery to remove a pellet from its right thigh, now health workers wanted to carry out a blood test, take a hair sample and conduct an X-ray to check for broken bones.

The vets had real trouble trying get the enormous and very drowsy orangutan upright for the X-ray. Four men, each holding on to one of its limbs, had to lift it off the table and get it to stand up.

When they finally had the primate on its feet, they realised there was no one free to turn on the X-ray machine, so they had to call in someone else to help them.

After the tests were successfully concluded, the orangutan was taken to an enclosure at the centre. He was treated at a centre run by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) in North Sumatra province.

The organisation said the orangutan, named Angelo, is around 14 years old and was rescued from an isolated patch of forest in North Sumatra by the government conservation agency and another group, the Orangutan Information Centre.

The land surrounding the forest had been cleared, mainly to make way for palm oil plantations, a practise that is common across the island of Sumatra. The edible oil is used in numerous everyday goods, from biscuits to shampoo, but is blamed for rampant deforestation in Sumatra and other parts of the Indonesian archipelago.

The SOCP said if Angelo had not been rescued, he would not have survived in such an isolated patch of forest, and the pellets in his body showed that local villagers had already been shooting at him.

He will be released back into the wild once he has spent 30 days in quarantine and is deemed to be fit and well, the group said.

Aditya is based in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, and has been working with AFP for more than five years.

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