Baby Orangutan Was Chained Between Two Buildings — And Left There For A Year
"He wanted the orangutan to be chained in his premises as an entertainment for his family."
This little orangutan waited nearly a year for somebody to come and save him.
Mingky was just a baby when he was captured on some farmland near the Indonesian forest where he lived. As in most cases where young orangutans are captured, his mother was likely killed before he was taken from the wild.
It's unclear what happened to Mingky next, or where he was kept. But in February, the man who captured him allegedly decided to turn him over to a friend. That friend decided the best place for the little orangutan was strung up between two houses.
"He said he wanted the orangutan to be chained in his premises as an entertainment for his family," Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC), told The Dodo.
Mingky was chained that way for nearly a year, tethered by his neck to a bolt in the wall. He had no shelter - only the crumbling concrete beneath his feet and the 2-foot crevice between the buildings where, instead of being with his mother, he'd curl up and hug himself to sleep.
His owner would stop by every day to feed the young orangutan fruit and, if he was lucky, a bit of rice.
And that's how Panut lived for much of his young life. Every day, people would walk by the little gap where Mingky lived. But no one every came to save him.
Until a few weeks ago, when everything finally changed.
"Our team found the male orangutan, estimated 3 years old, being chained in a wall between two houses ... through our intel, who discovered the orangutan illegally held in a house in a rural area near Blang Pidie city, Aceh Barat Daya," Hadisiswoyo said.
OIC quickly reached out to local wildlife authorities for help, knowing that Mingky's owner was breaking the law by keeping him. Together with wildlife and police officials, OIC arrived on the scene to finally rescue the baby ape - whom the villager fortunately agreed to turn over.
"The owner allowed the rescue team to take the orangutan," Hadisiswoyo said.
The man also told officials his story of how his friend had been the one to capture Mingky before he received him. While the stories of illegal pet owners are always questionable, officials decided to take his account at face value. "There is no prosecution for the owner as the police believed that the owner received the orangutan from his friend and thus he was willing to surrender the orangutan," Hadisiswoyo said.
But despite the lack of prosecution, rescuers were determined to do everything they could for the young orangutan. Naturally, he was terrified of his visitors after all he had been through - Hadisiswoyo said he was "still aggressive" and had wild behavior. So they tranquilized him before, at long last, removing the chain from around his neck.
While the heartbreaking nature of Mingky's rescue is difficult to believe, he's sadly far from the only victim of the illegal pet trade - and even the details of his story are far from unique. Just this spring, rescuers with Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) discovered a monkey who had been locked up between two buildings in a Bangkok slum for an incredible 25 years.
"I have seen a lot of animal suffering in the last 17 years, but I would say that the condition the monkey was kept in was probably in the 'top 10' of most horrible cases," Edwin Wiek, founder of WFFT, said at the time.
While any animal can suffer from this treatment, orangutans are at particular risk as they are already careening towards extinction due to palm oil plantations, which destroy their habitat, and the pet trade. As of this July, both species of orangutan are now listed as critically endangered.
But for Mingky, at least, his mistreatment is in the past - and his rescuers are just grateful they found him in time. "The orangutan would have been suffering forever but luckily our team discovered him," OIC wrote.
Though he'll never regain the mother he lost, the young orangutan is currently in the care of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), where he's being held in quarantine before beginning his rehabilitation program. If all goes well, he'll be raised at SOCP and be able to return to life in the wild when he's older.
"He is now in safe hands," OIC wrote. "Our ... team is a lifeline for many orangutans in Sumatra. It is extremely important that our team is able to continue to be in the field monitoring conflict situations and/or isolated forest patches containing orangutans, so that these smaller but still vital populations are not lost."
If you'd like to help in the important work of saving wild orangutans like Mingky from human conflict, you can make a donation to OIC here.