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Refuge funds needed; Berlin woman fights to save orangutans.

Byline: Karen Nugent

In desperation, a mother and baby orangutan who had not eaten in days wandered into a village in Borneo in search of food. All of the trees nearby, their natural food supply, were cleared for palm oil plantations, a booming business in that part of the world.

An angry mob stoned the animals, beat them, and tried to drown them, according to Laurence E. Van Atten-Holyoak of Berlin, manager of the U.S. office and development coordinator of International Animal Rescue, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization.

A veterinarian from the rescue organization arrived, tranquilized both orangutans, and took them away. Sadly, the mother had water in her lungs and never woke up. But the baby, later named "Peni," was brought to their temporary rescue facility near West Kalimantan, Borneo.

That center, with 50 rescued orangutans, is at capacity, and does not have rehabilitation facilities.

"We can't rescue any more orangutans until we raise enough money to build a center," Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak said. "We really need funding. I am putting all my efforts into raising the $1.7 million needed to build the new center."

It would be located just a few miles away from the temporary refuge.

So far, approximately $500,000 has been raised, including some funding from the Arcus Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department.

The new center would consist of a quarantine unit, socialization enclosures (secure open areas of forest,) medical facilities, including a clinic, treatment room, surgical unit, and laboratory; education and research center, a kitchen and storeroom, and staff and volunteer accommodations.

Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak, a Shrewsbury native, said the ultimate goal is to release rescued orangutans back to the wild. Released animals would be monitored to make sure the transition is successful, she said.

An orangutan subspecies is the most endangered species in Borneo, and is protected under Indonesian law. West Kalimantan is one of the most deforested areas of the country, and until International Animal Rescue stepped in, there were no places for rescued orangutans.

They are under serious threat as their habitat becomes more and more fragmented, Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak said. Plantation workers have told volunteers from the group that infant orangutans are caught and sold as pets, and the adults are killed and eaten. The local population, she said, consider them pests.

Many of the animals suffer abuse as pets and most have diseases.

"They require long-term rehabilitation," she said.

It is estimated that 90 percent of rescued orangutans can be released.

"The need is clear, the timing is urgent," Ms. Van Atten-Holyoak said. "We have a duty to preserve our closest animal cousins."

To donate, visit www.internationalanimalrescue.org.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Peni was brought to a temporary rescue facility in Borneo after losing its mother.

PHOTOG: SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Title Annotation:ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Aug 29, 2012
Words:467
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