Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baby orang utan

Ape infant ... at the Orang-Utan Island care unit

Ape infant ... at the Orang-Utan Island care unit

Emergency Ward’tan ... conservation centre

THESE cheeky youngsters look cute enough for pin-up posters as they monkey around in their nappies for the camera.

Mischief ... ten-month-old April chews a sheet
Mischief ... ten-month-old April chews a shee

But behind their crazy ape japes there is a serious reason for treating the baby orang-utans like human infants.

They have all been abandoned or injured at an early age, leaving staff at a unique intensive care unit in the heart of the Malaysian jungle to work around the clock to care for them.

In the orang gang ... June-Junior on a drip

In the orang gang ... June-Junior on a drip

With two-hourly feeds and 30- minute checks, the patients need all the care human babies do.

But unlike their hairless distant cousins, the orang-utans can get up to advanced mischief as soon as their carers’ backs are turned.

April ... chews her cot bars

Pulling at a heart monitor cable or trying to suck on an intravenous drip is a fun game for three-month-old June-Junior and her pal April, ten months. They are among 23 Borneo orang-utans at the unit, which is part of a conservation centre called Orang-Utan Island.

Ape infant ... at the Orang-Utan Island care unit

Head vet Dr Sabapathy Dharmalingam says: “It is a matter of the survival of the species. The plan is to start returning them to the wild in a secret location in Borneo.

“April is in intensive care after being rejected by her mother, who was very aggressive towards her.

“June-Junior is a more serious case as she was born weighing just 2lb 6oz and had respiratory problems. We frequently have to put her into an incubator because her temperature falls.”

It costs £30,000 a year to staff the orang-utan hospital and the cash comes from admission fees to a nearby wildlife park.

Dr Sabapathy adds: “The babies stay in the intensive care unit until they are almost a year old and are then moved to our infant development unit. There they are taught how to survive in the wild and their human contact is gradually cut to a minimum.”

Ape infants ... at the Orang-Utan Island care unit

So, cute as the orang-utans are, it clearly doesn’t pay to get too primatey with them...

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