Kuala Satung, West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.

Pelangsi, a young male orangutan, underwent a five-hour operation last May to remove his withered hand and arm. He had spent ten days caught in a snare before a team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) reached him and cut him free.



The local man who set the trap has admitted to having 60 snares in the forest which is only about 400 hectares in size. The forest in Pelangsi is home to a large number of orangutans that have fled from the new palm oil plantation that has been created next to it by a palm oil company. The man claimed to have tried to free the trapped orangutan but was scared of the animal which was wild with pain and the trauma of being caught. The man was also afraid to report the situation to the authorities for fear of being prosecuted under Indonesian law should the orangutan die. Consequently he abandoned the animal without food or water, leaving it for days struggling to break free and causing an agonizing wound on its hand and wrist.

Thankfully a local from the same village alerted the team at the IAR centre and they responded immediately.

The young adult was close to death when they found him. His right arm was caught in the snare which had been set to trap deer and wild boar. The orangutan had stepped in a loop of rope hidden under leaves on the ground which tightened and pulled upwards when he trod on it.

Trapped in the snare for ten days without food or water.

Pelangsi was trapped in the snare for ten days without food or water.

Rescue team

led by veterinary director Karmele Llano Sanchez, sedated the orangutan, freed him from the snare and gave him fluids for severe dehydration before transporting him back to IAR’s clinic in Ketapang.

Veterinary director Karmele Llano Sanchez cutting Pelangsi free.

Veterinary director Karmele Llano Sanchez cutting Pelangsi free.

He was given the name Pelangsi, after the area where he was found. The medical team worked round the clock to save him. During the first 48 hours his condition remained critical and he wasn’t stable enough to undergo surgery. He had contracted septicemia as a result of the injury and infection in his hand. He received fluids intravenously and was also put on antibiotics and painkillers.

The IAR Indonesia veterinary team was led by Dr Adi Irawan, under the guidance of Dr. Paolo Martelli, Chief Veterinarian Ocean Park Hong Kong

Stressed in captivity, Pelangsi tries to hide under the foliage in his cage whenever the vets approach him.

Stressed in captivity, Pelangsi tries to hide under the foliage in his cage whenever the vets approach him.

Palm Oil Industry wreaks havoc on orangutans

IAR’s centre in Ketapang is already caring for three baby orangutans that were rescued from the PT KAL palm oil plantation and the team also tried unsuccessfully to rescue three more that were found there during land clearing operations. The company is a member of the RSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil), an association set up to promote the sustainable production and use of palm oil. However, in spite of PT KAL’s apparent concern about the social and environmental impact of its industry, they are responsible for large numbers of orangutan deaths in the area.

Alan Knight OBE, IAR’s Chief Executive, said: “Pelangsi’s story is a graphic illustration of the plight of so many orangutans in Borneo. He was driven from the forest when it was destroyed to make way for a palm oil plantation and forced into an area where wildlife and human beings are competing for space and for food.”

There are now 51 orangutans at IAR’s emergency centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan which have been rescued or confiscated with assistance from the BKSDA – the local forestry department. That number will continue to rise rapidly until drastic measures are taken by the palm oil companies to protect orangutans and other wildlife from the devastating effects of their industry.


After six months of treatment and rehabilitation at IAR’s orangutan centre in Ketapang, Pelangsi was released into the Pematang Gadung forest of West Kalimantan in December, The forest is a safe area free from snares and other man-made threats, and patrolled and monitored by a volunteer group of local villagers from the community of Pematang Gadung. Yet the area is not currently officially protected. IAR is pushing to raise local awareness of the condition of orangutans and their habitat in Ketapang, in the hope that Pematang Gadung will be given status as a protected area.

A team of experts are following and monitoring Pelangsi to see how he is coping.

Alan Knight OBE, IAR’s Chief Executive, added his “thanks to Dr Adi, Dr Wendi, Dr Silje, Dr Richa, Dr Jesus and Dr Raul for all they are doing.”