Staff at a Sumatran orangutan sanctuary have a unique double celebration in their hands with the birth of rare twin infants to parents who are both completely blind and lucky to be alive.
Twins’ mother Gober lost her sight to cataracts and was rescued in 2008 by the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme after her blindness forced her to raid crops, risking almost certain death from villagers.
Father Leuser, confiscated as an illegal pet and released fit and well into the wild in Bukit Tigapulah National Park, strayed outside park boundaries and was shot by villagers. He was found with 62 air rifle wounds with three pellets lodged in his eyes.
The twins were born last Friday (January 21) at the Batu Mbelin orangutan quarantine centre near Medan in North Sumatra where both adults are in long term care, after staff lifted their normal breeding ban to improve quality of life for elderly Gober, now well over 40.
“We try to prevent orang-utans breeding until after they are released to the wild, but this was not an option for Gober,” said Ian Singleton, Director of Conservation for the Swiss based Pan Eco Foundation.
“ We felt having an infant would enrich her existence. Rather than being bored, Gober now has the full time responsibility of her infants, not just one but two of them.”
Mother and babies, a boy and a girl named ‘Ganteng’ (handsome) and ‘Ginting’ ( a popular local name), are doing well under careful staff supervision, he reports. For the time being Leuser is being kept separate although he could meet his offspring later in the year.
‘Twins are not unheard of but they are certainly not common and relatively few zoos will have experience of it. The fact that both parents are blind this makes it a doubly special event.”
And long term? Ian hopes that both infants will eventually be released to a life in the wild, something denied to both their parents.
“Despite their handicaps, both Gober’s and Leuser’s genes will be given a second chance to contribute to conservation of their species in the wilds of Sumatra.”
Sumatran orangutans now number only 6,600 in the wild. They are listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, facing loss of rainforest, mostly converted to oil palm plantations, and frequently killed during forest clearance or as pests if they raid crops.
- Three local villagers were jailed in 2006 for shooting Leuser , all receiving sentences of more than three months. 16 pellets were removed, but 46 remain in his body as attempts to remove them could risk his life.
- Construction of the Batu Mbelin orang-utan quarantine centre was completed in 2002, since when 200 orangutans have been received and more than 130 already transferred to the SOCP’s centre at Jambi for re-introduction to the wild.
- The Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme is a collaborative initiative driven by the Indonesia Government Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation, involving Swiss based Pan Eco Foundation, Indonesia’s Yayasin Ekosistem Lestari Foundation and Germany’s Frankfurt Zoological Society. Its work includes rescue, quarantine and re-introduction, surveys and monitoring of populations, conservation research, habitat conservation, education and awareness raising.
- The Orangutan Foundation is the UK representative of the SOCP.
Anyone wanting to help Gober, Leuser and their twins, and many others in Sumatra can do so by making a donation to the Orangutan Foundation in the UK or PanEco Foundation via:
www.orangutan.org.uk (Reference: SOCP)
Further details and high resolution images:-
Ashley Leiman,Director - Orangutan Foundation.
020 7724 2912 firstname.lastname@example.org