SIBOLANGIT, Indonesia — An endangered orangutan with a young baby on Indonesia’s Sumatra island was blinded after being shot at least 74 times with an air gun, an official and veterinarian said Monday.
An X-ray showed at least 74 air gun pellets in its body, including four in its left eyes and two in the right, said Yenny Saraswati, a veterinarian with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. She said the animal, named “Hope” by the team of rescuers, was blinded by the shooting and also had several open wounds believed to have been caused by sharp objects.
She said Hope underwent surgery on Sunday to repair a broken collarbone and was recovering.
Conflicts between orangutans and people have increased as the palm oil and paper industries shrink the animals’ jungle habitat.
Villagers spotted the severely wounded orangutan in a farm in Aceh province’s Subulussalam district last week with its month-old baby, which was suffering from critical malnutrition, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, who heads the Aceh provincial conservation agency.
The baby died from malnutrition as rescuers rushed the two animals to an orangutan veterinary clinic in neighboring North Sumatra province’s Sibolangit district.
“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” Saraswati said, adding that during the operation they only removed seven of the gun pellets because they had to prioritize fixing the animal’s broken collarbone and the risk of infection that it posed.
The orangutan conservation program said the use of readily available air guns to shoot and kill wildlife, including orangutans, is a major problem in Indonesia.
It said in the last 10 years, it has treated more than 15 orangutans with a total of nearly 500 air gun pellets in their bodies.
Last year, an orangutan in the Indonesian part of Borneo died after being shot at least 130 times with an air gun, the second known killing of an orangutan that year.
A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans estimates that their numbers have plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase.
Only around 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.