(Guest post by Christina M. Russo from thedodo.com)
Sometime in 2012, an infant orangutan was kidnapped in the forests of Indonesia.
During the incident, the orangutan's mother was likely murdered: the bond between a mother orangutan and her child is powerful, and a mother won't let her baby be taken from her without a fight.
The captors — who were local fishermen — immediately sold the fragile infant to an employee of a large palm oil plantation company situated in the area, Jessica McKelson, director of the quarantine station at the conservation group Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), told The Dodo.
The transaction was not uncommon. Nor was it expensive: The cost of the life of the mother and the illegal sale of the orangutan was less than $8, McKelson says.
SOCP, along with local police, eventually rescued the little orangutan from his predicament and named him Gokong.
Gokong was weak, dehydrated and malnourished. He was in such bad condition that, although he was a year old, "he had the appearance and weight of a 5-month-old and weighed only 800 grams," according to SOCP's senior veterinarian Yenny Saraswati.
Gokong was immediately brought to SOCP's Batu Mbelin Care Centre (the quarantine station which is part of the center) in February 2013, and joined a group of nearly 300 orangutans who have been rescued, rehabilitated and sometimes released back into the wild since the center's inception in 2002.(read this recent article in Mongabay about the rare prosecution of a wildlife trader, caught with a baby orangutan in a bag.)
"We refer to these orangutans," says McKelson, "as the 'lucky survivors.'"