Baby orang-utan travels first-class

An abandoned baby orang-utan had a luxury journey to its new adoptive home - as a first-class passenger on a cruise ferry.

Silvestre, an 11-month-old Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii), was abandoned by its mother at the Santillana Zoo in Spain.

The Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset stepped in and offered it a new home.

But to bring Silvestre to the UK, special permission had to be obtained from the British authorities so it could occupy its private cabin aboard the Brittany Ferry from Santander to Portsmouth, accompanied by its carers.

Dr Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World, explained that orang-utans have the longest "childhood" of the great apes. Infants can stay with their mothers for up to seven years, learning the skills needed to survive in the wild and to get along with others of their kind.

She said it was critical Silvestre be found a home where it could grow up with other orang-utans.

Dr Cronin added: "We are all over the moon to welcome Silvestre to our orang-utan creche. At a year old it is the perfect time for him to move in full time with other orang-utans where he can develop physically and mentally with others of his own kind.

"Santillana Zoo has done a wonderful job caring for him and we are pleased to be able to offer him a place in our nursery group so that this critically endangered species has as good a start in life as possible.

"What a great Christmas present, being able to give little Silvestre a family of his own."

Dr Cronin added that Silvestre is settling in with its new family in Europe's only creche for the orphaned apes.

Their nursery building has a playroom fitted out with a climbing frame, hammocks and ropes to encourage natural, arboreal (tree-living) orang-utan behaviour.

She said: "So far Silvestre has met two adoptive sisters, Dinda and Lingga, and the introductions are going well.

"Silvestre's new family are all Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus), a different species to him but their behaviour is very similar.

"Silvestre will grow up with his adopted family at Monkey World learning all the skills and behaviour that he will need to mature into a well-adjusted adult male Sumatran orang-utan."