World's first orangutan ICU
THESE baby apes are hooked up to heart monitors and IV drips – in the world’s first orangutan intensive care unit.
The hairy tots, called June-Junior and April, are treated with the same high-tech machines available in any neo-natal unit.
The only difference, say nurses at Malaysia’s Bukit Merah wildlife park, is these patients climb out of their cots to cause mischief much earlier than their human cousins.
With regular two-hour feeds and 30-minute checks on their vital signs, three-month-old June-Junior and ten-month-old April are in the best possible hands.
While their treatment isn’t exactly cutting edge, it is at the forefront of animal welfare.
A dedicated team of seven nurses, headed by one of Malaysia’s most experienced vets, provides 24-hour monitoring at the world’s most advanced ape hospital.
Inside the sealed ICU the baby orangutans are given a daily intake of vitamins and have regular blood checks.
Dressed in nappies, June-Junior and April chew their cots, throw bedding across their sterile room and make faces at each other.
They are the latest of 12 orangutans to have passed through the £70,000 facility's doors since it opened in March 2004.
“We have a total of 23 orangutans here at the Bukit Merah resort,” said Dr Sabapathy Dharmalingam.
“We work with the state government of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, who send us ill or abandoned orangutans that we care for here.
“The ultimate plan in the next year is to enact the return of our 23 apes to the wilds of Borneo, into a secret location.
“It is a matter of the survival of the species.”
Born in an eco-tourism park on the Malaysian mainland, April and June-Junior were taken into the custody of the ICU after being rejected by their mothers.
The low birth rate of orangutans and encroachment on their natural habitat has seen the species’ population dwindle.
Recognised as an endangered species, the Borneo orangutan is estimated to number between 45,000 and 70,000 in the wild.
“April was rejected by her mother, who was very aggressive towards her,” said Dr Sabapathy.
“She will stay inside the ICU until she is almost one-year-old and then she will be moved to our Infant Development Unit.
“There she will be taught how to survive in the wild and gradually her human contact will be cut to a bare minimum.
“June-Junior was a more serious case as she was born weighing just 1.1kg and had developed respiratory problems.
“We frequently have to put her into the incubator because her temperature falls below the norm of 36.5 degrees.”
Priding themselves on their commitment to conservation as well as informing the public of the plight of the orangutan, the Bukit Merah park is one of Malaysia’s largest eco-tourism resorts.
The orangutans will be returned to the wild in phases, with the oldest apes due to be reintegrated next year.
Dr Sabapathy added: “Without the specialist care that we offer in our ICU I would not be so confident of June-Junior’s and April’s survival.
“It costs almost £30,000 a year to keep the ICU staffed, up-to-date and open, but we cover these costs through the park’s admission.”
Source: The Sun UK