Meet Alba, the only albino orangutan ever recorded. After spending much of her life in captivity, she is now living freely in the Borneo jungle.
Alba, whose name means “white” in Latin and “dawn” in Spanish, was discovered approximately one year ago in an Indonesian village. When officials from the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation found her, she was starving and dehydrated. “She was five years old at the time and suffering from stress, dehydration, and a parasite infection, and had a very poor appetite,” explained BOS in a statement.
Alba was immediately moved to the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. There, she received intensive care provided by a veterinary team and was nursed to health. When she recovered, she displayed her climbing and socialization skills.
The world’s only known albino orangutan is released back into the jungle.
"Alba" was found emaciated and bloody over a year ago being kept in a cage in a remote village in Borneo, Indonesia. When rescued she weighed only 8kg. Today she is a normal 28kghttps://t.co/Kal1HNkaPU pic.twitter.com/ro7RYKAMBb
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 21, 2018
The albino orangutan is estimated to be about five-years-old. While she recovered at the center, Alba bonded with another rescue orangutan called Kika. According to The Associated Press, both apes displayed wild behaviors and signs they “firmly disliked humans” when they were transported to the rehab center.
Reportedly, most semi-wild orangutans are kept only a few months before they are returned to the wild. But, Alba has albinism. As a result, she has poor eyesight, poor hearing, and a predisposition to skin cancer. This makes her more vulnerable than other orangutans.
For a while, the expert team debated on releasing Alba at all. After all, the other orangutans might not accept her due to her unusual appearance. Eventually, they decided that her home is in the jungle. It helps that she is a confident orangutan.
“Alba has no inferiority complex as we imagined before. She is very confident compared to other orangutans,” said veterinarian Agus Fathoni. “I think the real threat actually comes from humans. What we’re worried about is poaching where this very special condition makes her a target.”
On December 18, it was time for Alba and Kika to return to the forest. So, BKSDA and BOS Foundation staff drove through the night to transport the orangutans to the border of the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park. The reserve is approximately 1,810 square-kilometer (699 square miles) in size and is located at the southwest tip of Borneo’s Schwaner mountain range.
The group arrived at dawn then promptly traded trucks for boats. For four hours, they rode upstream to the release site. 16 hours after leaving the rehabilitation center, the orangutans were let out of their cages into the forest. As IFLScience reports, Kiki’s was opened first. Several minutes later, Alba tentatively opened hers and joined her companion.
Field crews from the BOS Foundation will closely monitor Alba and Kika to ensure they adapt well. Park officials will also perform anti-poaching patrols to keep a close eye on the newly-released orangutans.
Watch the video of the release below:
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