A starving, heavily pregnant orang-utan clings to a solitary tree high above what had been pristine rainforest for ­millennia – till giant bulldozers moved in and flattened it in days.

Female orang-utan Boon-Mee was too weak and frightened to leave the trunk where she had sought sanctuary as the machines tore down her ­jungle home in Borneo, reports the Sunday People.

Scared and alone: An orangutan clings to the last tree in her forest after it was devastated by bulldozers. She was rescued along with a number of other orangutans

That meant she could not forage for food – condemning herself and her unborn baby to an agonizing death.

Boon-Mee seemed doomed to share the fate of so many orang-utans in Indonesia, where palm-oil plantations are destroying the primates’ tropical habitats on Borneo and Sumatra.

Brink of death: The animal is stunned and it falls into a net, before immediately being drip-fed nutrients. Many of the orangutans were found starving


Hundreds of apes are slaughtered every year with guns and machetes in the drive for profits.

But in fact, Boon-Mee was lucky because in her case the plantation owners belong to a conservation group and told UK-based charity International Animal Rescue about her.

An IAR team – backed by local forestry officials – was dispatched and spent hours scrambling over fallen trees, often having to wear masks because stumps had been torched and were still smoldering.

Captured: Another orangutan lies in a net after being rescued. Many had resorted to eating bark as their habitat was systematically destroyed ahead of being turned into a palm oil plantation

When they finally arrived at the scene, they found not just Boon-Mee but three other orang-utans.

IAR official Lis Key said: “It’s heartbreaking to see the appalling state of these animals as their habitat is razed for the palm oil industry – they were weak from hunger. It’s small comfort that this time rather than chase them off or kill them, the ­company did the right thing and ­contacted us.”

Rescue: Weak from hunger, another orangutan is saved by rescuers in Borneo

Boon-Mee was the trickiest of the primates to catch because she was too weak to climb down from the tree.

In the end, rescuers shot her with a tranquilizer and caught her in a net.

On the brink: Another orangutan clings to a branch before being shot by a stun gun and saved by International Animal Rescue

The three adults and one infant were taken to a refuge, where Boon-Mee successfully had her baby.

Big business: Huge swathes of rainforest in Borneo are being destroyed for palm oil, which is used in processed foods and is increasingly being utilised as a bio fuel

All the apes were nursed back to health and later released into the wild deep in another part of the forest. Lis said: “Despite the condition they were in, they really are the lucky ones.

Rescue mission: A man prepares to stun an orangutan to allow it to be taken to a nearby rescue sanctuary

“The worst thing is there are hundreds of orang-utans who won’t be so lucky because of the awful conditions they are forced to try to survive in.”

Weak: An orangutan is attended to by vets after being stunned. While this animal is expected to make a full recovery, many have died as a result of the deforestation

Experts fear there are only 40,000 orang-utans left in the wild – a shocking 20,000 fewer than a decade ago.

And IAR warns deforestation for palm oil is the No1 cause. The oil is used in up to half of all processed foods, is increasingly used as bio-fuel and is a key ingredient in items like shampoo and cosmetics.

Hope: Another animal is rescued. Their desperate situation appalled International Animal Rescue, which condemned the palm oil companies for their treatment of the orangutans

Lis said: “There are plenty of alternatives to it but none is as cheap”.

And shoppers often don’t realize how widely it’s used because it can legally be ­tagged “vegetable oil” on product labels.

But the EU plan to introduce new labeling rules next year.


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