RATCHABURI PROVINCE, Thailand: Two baby Sumatran orangutans rescued by border officials who foiled a bid to smuggle them into Thailand arrived at a wildlife centre on Wednesday (Sep 13), to stay until Indonesia decides on their return, officials said.

Let out of their cage, the new arrivals rubbed noses with another pair of baby orangutans already resident at the centre. They received a bath before exploring their new surroundings, holding onto each other all the while.

Let out of their cage, the new arrivals rubbed noses with another pair of baby orangutans already resident at the centre. (Image: Reuters)

“Because they are still small, we have to keep these two inside a nursery enclosure as they need close attention,” said Banpot Maleehuan, director of the Khao Pratab Chang Wildlife Breeding Center in central Thailand.

The two-year-old animals, one male and one female, will live at the centre until a court case is completed and Indonesia decides whether to take them back, he added.

The primates were among a group of animals rescued in June at the Padang Besar customs checkpoint on the border with Malaysia. A Malaysian national was arrested for attempting to smuggle them, media said.

The two-year-olds received a bath before exploring their new surroundings, holding onto each other all the while. (Photo: Reuters)

Maleehuan said their goal is to give the two animals an environment like their own. 

“We try to let them live as close to their natural surrounding as much as possible, especially their food and habitat,” he said. “Apart from their caretaker, we will not let them stay close to a human or get familiar with humans.

“Once they grow a bit older, we’ll move them to a bigger enclosure and not let people go in apart from the caretaker.”

Orangutans, the world’s largest tree-climbing mammals, are classified as critically endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and around 60,000 are left in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates, down from around 230,000 animals a century ago.

Deforestation and land clearing for pulp, paper and palm oil plantations has depleted the habitat of orangutans, which means “person of the forest” in Malay. Fires are often set by companies to clear the land.



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