Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – A blind male orangutan that was found with 24 air rifles pellets in his body was declared to be a stable condition on Thursday after a team of veterinarians removed three pellets from his head.
The orangutan, named Paguh by the rescue team, was found by a Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) team in Gampong Teungoh in South Aceh regency, Aceh, last week. He was suspected to have been shot by poachers.
Galuh has since been treated at the Batu Mbelin Sibolangit orangutan rehabilitation center run by the Lestari Ecosystem Foundation and PanEco Foundation – Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (YEL-SOCP) in Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra.
YEL-SOCP communication officer Castri Delfi Saragih said the veterinary team had tried to remove all the pellets from Paguh's body but was unable to do so.
"Paguh is currently in a stable condition after the veterinary team removed three pellets from his head," Castri told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Castri said that based on experience, veterinarians may not be able to remove all the pellets from Paguh's body, citing the example of Hope, a female orangutan that was found with 74 air rifle pellets in her body in March.
Only 10 pellets had been removed from Hope's body, but she was still in a stable condition, Castri added.
Meuthya Sr, one of the YEL-SOCP veterinarians that treated Paguh, said X-rays had shown there were 16 pellets in Paguh's head, four in his arms and legs, three in his hip and one in his stomach.
She added that the team would not try to remove all the pellets if it would worsen Paguh's condition, especially since he was blind in both eyes.
"At first we hoped that Paguh's eyes were not completely damaged or that at least one eye was still functioning," she said. "But unfortunately, we found that Paguh was blind in both eyes."
YEL-SOCP orangutan rehabilitation and reintroduction program supervisor Citrakasih Nente said Paguh's case was not an isolated one – in the past 10 years, YEL-SOCP has treated around 20 orangutans shot with air rifles.
Before Hope, whose 1-month-old baby died from malnutrition after its mother was injured, another 30-year-old orangutan was shot with 20 pellets in July 2017.
The orangutan has since recovered and now lives in Mount Leuser National Park (TNGL).
Another male orangutan, who was shot with 22 pellets at the end of 2015, was not so lucky. He died after being treated at the Batu Mbelin Sibolangit rehabilitation center.
"We are very concerned about these orangutan shootings that continue to happen," Citrakasih said. "The authorities need to be serious in ensuring that air rifles are used according to prevailing regulations so that what happened to Paguh and Hope is not repeated."
Aceh BKSDA head Agus Arianto also expressed his dismay at the incident and said orangutans were a protected species under the 1990 Nature Conservation law.
"Whoever [hurts an orangutan] can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined up to Rp 100 million [US$7,094]," Agus said. (kmt)