Kick-boxing orangutan head home from Thailand
Bewildered, afraid and with a deep distrust of humans, the orangutans cling to each other for comfort.
There is sadly no way to reassure them that their lives are about to take a dramatic turn for the better.
This animal is one of more than 100 forced to take part in degrading kick-boxing matches in a ring set up at a Thai amusement park.
But yesterday their freak-show existence was behind them after a rescue operation began to airlift them back to their home in the Indonesian rainforest.
Forty-eight of the abused apes, which had been seized in the wild and smuggled to Thailand, were taken from Bangkok’s Safari World theme park. Wildlife officials wearing ‘Welcome Home’ T-shirts held the timid creatures’ hands as they walked them to freedom.
The orang-utans were taken by road from Safari World to a rescue centre in Ratchaburi, 80 miles west of the Thai capital.
Kept in blue crates for safety, they are to be airlifted by military Hercules transport planes to Jakarta, where Indonesia’s first lady Ani Yudhoyono will greet them.
Safari World’s owners originally claimed the 115 orang-utans seized by wildlife police were the result of a domestic breeding programme. But DNA tests proved they had been brought illegally from Indonesia. As legal wrangles delayed their freedom many of their number died or disappeared from custody.
Indonesian officials said the apes would spend two months in quarantine before undergoing a two-year rehabilitation programme, then being released back into the jungle.
Fewer than 60,000 orang-utans are thought to be left in Borneo and Sumatra, and environmentalists say the species could become extinct in the wild within a decade if the current rate of decline continues.