This young orangutan was rescued in July 2021 when she was four years old. She’d been in captivity, held illegally as a ‘pet’, for nearly her whole life. It’s hard to imagine the fear and trauma she experienced, from losing her mother, being torn out of the forest, and then the suffering of having a chain around her neck in recent years. She is the reason our Bornean Orangutan Rescue Alliance (BORA) was formed. She was once called Rembo, traditionally a boy’s name; it’s possible the wildlife traffickers didn’t recognise that she’s female. Now she has a new home and a new name. A new chance at a healthy life of freedom.
To choose a new name for Rembo, we reached out to one of our wonderful supporters, who has kindly donated funds to help us start construction of our new BORA Rescue Centre. We asked her to give this young orangutan a new name that speaks to the theme of ‘hope’. This beautiful girl has now been named Charlotte, which means ‘free woman’ in French. The staff at BORA rescue centre are overjoyed by the meaning and beauty of the name and predict a few more (human) baby Charlottes in the future.
When our BORA team rescued Charlotte, she’d been kept illegally in a suburban house surrounded by oil palm plantations since she was a tiny baby. It’s very likely her mother had been killed in front of her. Our team found Charlotte shackled and huddled beneath a family home in East Kalimantan, with only a tiny wooden box for shelter. It’s unknown how long she’d been chained by the neck under the deck, but what we do know is the ‘owner’ had put the chain on her when she became older and stronger.
This is not uncommon for orangutans that are kept illegally as pets. As they become stronger, families become afraid of them and resort to methods such as chaining to control the orangutan. Despite her terrible treatment, we’re grateful to the community members who informed the local BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency) about Charlotte, so our team and local authorities could go to the house and rescue her. Our rescue alliance and patrol teams play a crucial role in raising awareness among communities and villagers about this issue. Every time someone informs us of an illegally held orangutan, we know the message has got through.
Charlotte’s time in captivity has affected her, but we hope she will continue to recover and learn the skills she needs to become a healthy, wild orangutan. She is very shy of people, except one orangutan carer, who she lets approach her. During her time as a ‘pet’, Charlotte had been fed food such as candy, chips, bread and sweet snacks, none of which are appropriate for an orangutan. Because of that, Charlotte is wary of eating normal orangutan foods like pineapple and papaya, often taking just one bite and dropping them. She also doesn’t know how to eat leaves and bark, which are a core part of a wild orangutan’s diet, and simply lets them fall to the ground or tries to play with them.
Charlotte is currently in quarantine at the BORA Rescue Centre clinic, receiving dedicated medical care and attention. When she’s finished her quarantine period, she’ll be able to join the other orangutans at Jungle School, which will be a new positive experience for her. We hope to bring you good news soon of how she’s settling in with other orangutans such as Popi, Happi Bagus and Aman.
Charlotte has a long way to go before she will be able to return to the jungle. Her rehabilitation will take years, and our team at the BORA Rescue Centre will be there with her every step of the way. And thanks to your ongoing support, we can be there, day in and day out. Please support this work if you can by donating here: https://www.theorangutanproject.org/donate/rescue-rehabilitate-and-release-orangutans/