During a recent trip to Sumatra, wildlife photographer Craig Jones witnessed an incredible sight when his team came across a mother and baby orangutan on the brink of starvation. The pair had been pushed into an isolated patch of the forest by growing palm oil plantations, which threaten the natural habit of Sumatran orangutans.
Rescuers from the Sumatran Orangutan Society and the Orangutan Information Centre tranquilized the mother and transported her and her baby to a protected reserve, where they could roam freely without threat of starvation or poaching.
The incident highlights a growing problem on the island of Sumatra in western Indonesia, where orangutans are pushed to the edge of extinction by deforestation and the expansion of plantations. Orangutans are currently recognized as critically endangered -- two steps away from extinct -- with dwindling populations found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.
According to Jones, SOS and OIC have saved several orangutans from this particular area of the forest, which is in the process of being cleared by a plantation owner. The orangutans become trapped in a small section at the base of the valley that is surrounded by palm oil trees and polluted water.
"The orangutans there have no way of escape, as the steep sides to this place don't allow them to leave, so they are cut off with dwelling food supplies," Jones told The Huffington Post.
The rescue mission started early in the day when the team tracked the mother and baby orangutans and flushed them out into a sparser stretch of the forest so they could be captured and relocated. While tranquilization is a last resort, it is often the only way to safely move orangutans. Carrying the male baby, the mother orangutan was tranquilized in the trees and guided into an awaiting safety net below.
"The whole thing was very upsetting to watch the screams the noises of the baby as he watched his mom on the ground being checked over thinking she was dead," Jones said.
After catching the mother and checking her for injuries, the rescuers put the pair in a suitable container and drove them to a protected national park where they were released.