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Sibolangit (North Sumatra, Indonesia): An X-ray image of air rifle pellets inside the body of the female orangutan during surgery.—AP
Sibolangit (North Sumatra, Indonesia): An X-ray image of air rifle pellets inside the body of the female orangutan during surgery.—AP

SIBOLANGIT: An endangered orangutan with a young baby on Indonesia’s Sumatra island was blinded after being shot at least 74 times with an air gun, an official and veterinarian said on Monday.

An X-ray showed at least 74 air gun pellets in its body, including four in its left eyes and two in the right, said Yenny Saraswati, a veterinarian with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. She said the animal, named “Hope” by the team of rescuers, was blinded by the shooting and also had several open wounds believed to have been caused by sharp objects.

She said Hope underwent surgery on Sunday to repair a broken collarbone and was recovering.

Conflicts between orangutans and people have increased as the palm oil and paper industries shrink the animals’ jungle habitat.

Villagers spotted the severely wounded orangutan in a farm in Aceh province’s Subulussalam district last week with its month-old baby, which was suffering from critical malnutrition, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, who heads the Aceh provincial conservation agency.

The baby died from malnutrition as rescuers rushed the two animals to an orangutan veterinary clinic in neighbouring North Sumatra province’s Sibolangit district.

“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” Saraswati said, adding that during the operation they only removed seven of the gun pellets because they had to prioritize fixing the animal’s broken collarbone and the risk of infection that it posed.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2019