FINALLY FREE: Traumatised orangutan led on her journey back to the wild
AN ORANGUTAN is taking her first faltering steps to freedom after being chained up for so long her body was left bent and twisted.
Heartwarming scenes scenes show the seven-year-old ape called Amy walking hand in hand with her keeper as she begins her journey from novelty pet to a free and wild ape.
How long Amy had spent confined in a wooden crate, with her neck held by a chain and with only a scrap of cloth for comfort, is a mystery.
Her owner always claimed it was merely a month but when she was finally unscrewed from her shackles she showed the signs that it had been like a life sentence.
Amy’s heavy chain had worn a deep and painful wound across her neck, her legs and spine had been left bent and there was also a shotgun pellet embedded in her armpit, a clue that her mother was most probably shot dead so she could be stolen from the wild.
Since being broken free from the crate earlier this year, the once illegally captive pet is beginning to slowly develop the survival skills that will one day become essential in the wild rainforests of Borneo.
She has just become one of 20 liberated orangutans moved to an island retreat at an Indonesian conservation centre run by British-based charity International Animal Rescue.
To get to the island, known as Pulau Besar with its 64 acres of forest, Amy had to gingerly walk across a ladder drawbridge which prevents the orangutans escaping before they are ready to be released.
As the footage shows, Amy’s initial reluctance to cross is soon overcome as she clings to her keeper’s reassuring hand.
Once the otherside of the water, another orangutan greets her with an emotional hug before she settles in the trees.
Pulau Besar, simply Big Island, was created by IAR after its recent Forest Fund appeal.
The charity’s chief executive, Alan Knight OBE, explains how it will prove such an important part in Amy’s rehabilitation and why it was such a poignant moment when she finally arrived.
He said: “After the terrible mistreatment and neglect Amy suffered while she was chained up in a small, dark crate, it is incredibly poignant to watch her walking so trustingly beside her keeper and following him carefully across the metal drawbridge to her new home.
“It takes years for an orangutan like Amy to develop all the skills she will need to survive in the wild.
“Young orangutans stay with their mothers until they are six or seven years old and it takes just as long for the orangutans in our care to master the art of climbing and moving through the trees, not to mention nestbuilding, foraging for food and avoiding predators.
“Thanks to the generosity of the public, we were recently able to purchase an area of forest adjacent to our centre and create Pulau Besar.
“This large island provides the perfect training ground for Amy and her friends and we are all thrilled to see them exploring and enjoying their new home.”
Amy is not the only freed orangutan with a harrowing life story to have arrived on Pulau Besar.
Dio is only three years old and has a bullet lodged behind his left eye, most likely to have been fired from the same weapon used to kill his mother.
He too was chained up by an owner who bought him from hunters before his eventual rescue by IAR in 2014.
Despite having only partial vision, Dio is making leaps and bounds towards his hopeful repatriation into the wild.
Mr Knight said: “With more than 100 rescued orangutans in rehabilitation at our centre, we need all the space we can get.
“The new island is making a huge difference to Amy, Dio and the rest of the group and, in a broader context, it serves as a reminder to us all of the vital need to protect as much precious forest as possible if the orangutan is to stand any chance of survival.”