Hanging on for dear life: Heartbreaking moment orangutan family are rescued as Borneo forest home is bulldozed

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An adult orangutan looks down from its treetop home as the forest in Ketapang, Borneo, is bulldozed (Caters) (Caters)
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Clutching desperately to branches as their home is destroyed beneath them, this is the heartbreaking moment starving orangutans were saved from a bulldozed Borneo rainforest.

The terrified animals were found clinging to the last remaining trees of a forest in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, where trees are being bulldozed to make way for a palm oil plantation.

Among those saved from the brink of death were a pregnant female orangutan, and a mother and baby who refused to let go of each other during the horrific ordeal.

Rescuers from UK charity International Animal Rescue (IAR) and the local forestry department in Ketapang, moved in to save the creatures in Borneo after receiving a call for help from the company, Bumitama Gunajaya Agro, which belongs to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

The frightened primates were desperately searching for food after enduring 'long periods of starvation' according to animal rescue charities.

The primates are said to have resorted to eating bark from the trees they were trying to hide in.

Animal conservationists say there are only 40,000 orangutans left in Borneo and neighbouring Sumatra.

Shockingly, it is thought that this figure was around 60,000 just ten years ago, meaning the orangutan population in those countries has shrunk by a third in just a decade.

International Animal Rescue say orangutans' biggest threat comes from poaching, deforestation and palm oil plantations.

One female orangutan was heavily pregnant, while another, who was still lactating is thought to have had her baby snatched to be sold as a pet or killed before the rescue team arrived.

The final female was found with her scared baby clinging to her back and both were very thin from malnutrition.

All are now recovering and have since been released into a new area of forest but IAR is now urging the company to halt any further land clearing because it is believed that there are other orangutans still trapped.

Karmele Llano Sanchez, Executive Director of IAR Indonesia, said: "We were appalled at the condition of these orangutans.

"All of them had gone through long periods of starvation before we rescued them.

"The area where they were found was too small to provide them with sufficient food because the company had cleared most of the forest.

"One of the orangutans had lost her baby, which was probably killed before the rescue team arrived.
"More orangutans could die if this company does not take immediate action."

Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive, said: "It is heartbreaking to see the state of these animals.

"They are weak from hunger and an increasingly desperate search for food.

"The only positive note is that, on this occasion, rather than chasing them away or killing them, the palm oil company did the right thing and contacted us so we could move them to a place of safety."

Palm oil is an ingredient found in up to half of processed foods, and is also increasingly being used as a biofuel in petrol tanks and power stations.

The expansion of oil palm plantations into high conservation value forests is recognised as a leading threat to critically endangered species including orangutans, elephants and tigers.

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