A young orangutan who witnessed her mother being tortured to death has now given birth to her own baby after a long and difficult journey back to the wild.
In 2010, Peni and her mother wandered into a remote village in West Borneo, where villagers pelted them with rocks and sticks. Before rescuers could get to them, Peni’s mother was tied up and thrown into a pool of water, and they were both dragged into a makeshift pen.
Despite International Animal Rescue (IAR) members’ best efforts to save the mother’s life, she died shortly after arriving at the forestry department centre for emergency treatment. Traumatised Peni, who was just three years old at the time, was then taken to IAR’s rehabilitation centre in Ketapang.
For four years Peni – named after the village of Penimaran where she was rescued – underwent intensive rehabilitation to overcome her traumatic past.
Following a period in quarantine, Peni began forest school where she was able to interact and socialise with other young orangutans, and where she was encouraged to explore her natural wild behaviour.
Peni became an excellent climber, and spent plenty of time up in the trees, as well as building nests where she could sleep at night.
Peni, who had never before been held in captivity, wasn’t used to humans, and remained a wild and independent orangutan. These qualities would stand Peni in good stead for living out in the forest again, and it became clear she would be a good candidate for reintroduction once she was ready.
On September 2, 2014, Peni was released into the protected forest of Mount Tarak in Nanga Tayap District, Ketapang.
After her release, IAR continued to monitor and observe Peni as she begun her independent life in the forest, reporting that she was adapting very well indeed.
At the end of 2019, the delighted team learnt Peni had given birth, with footage and photos showing the once terrified infant taking to motherhood with ease.
Conservationists believe the birth of baby Tarak is evidence that Peni had been successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated into the forest, having overcome the horrors of her painful past.
Director of IAR Indonesia, Karmele Llano Sanchez, stated:
There can be no better evidence of the effectiveness of our orangutan rehabilitation project than the sight of Peni and her new baby living freely in the forest.
Peni’s mother was cruelly taken from her when she was only three years old but she will have already learnt much from her in those formative years.
She continued her education at our conservation centre and, like all the orangutans undergoing rehabilitation, she was kept under close observation throughout those years to monitor her mental and physical development.
The fact that she has now returned to her natural habitat and has a baby of her own is the ultimate proof of her complete reintegration back into the wild.
IAR Chief Executive, Alan Knight, said:
This is the best news we could hope for after Peni’s return to her rightful home in the rainforest. Her story began with trauma and tragedy but is now one of happiness and hope for the future.
I applaud the entire team at our orangutan centre in Ketapang and the BKSDA for all the effort and dedication they put into the rescue, rehabilitation, release and monitoring of orangutans like Peni.
The birth of little Tarak really does make all their efforts to protect and conserve orangutans worthwhile.
[…] Human attacks on orangutans often occur as a result of people’s ignorance and fear. Our team builds close relationships with local communities to teach them what to do if they encounter an orangutan near their village or farmland.
So thankfully now people know to contact IAR or the BKSDA in such situations so that the lives of other orangutans can be spared.
All the very best of look to Peni and Tarak as they make their own way in the forest together.
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