Video shows baby orangutan traumatised by years in captivity

Warning – video contains distressing images.

Ryan Ramgobin
Wednesday 20 January 2016 16:13 GMT
Baby orangutan can't stop hugging herself

Video has been released showing the psychological trauma caused by keeping a wild orangutan in captivity.

Joss, a baby orangutan kept as a pet in Borneo, was rescued on 5 January by a team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Agency.

The video shows Joss repeatedly throwing herself onto the floor and banging her head against the wall, stopping only briefly when offered a bottle of milk by one of IAR’s vets.

After examining and observing Joss, IAR veterinarian Jaclyn Eng said: "Joss hugs herself constantly because she misses the physical contact and comfort she should still be getting from her mother. Her life up until now must have been very traumatic and stressful for her to behave in this abnormal way.”

“Animals usually develop stereotypical behaviour as a coping mechanism in response to a stressful situation. Our team has never seen such a young baby orangutan exhibiting stereotypical behaviour like this. It is extremely distressing to watch because it must reflect the mental and emotional trauma little Joss is suffering.”

Video shows baby orangutan traumatised by years in captivity

“At first we tried to comfort and hold her,” Jaclyn continues, “but she was obviously so stressed in her new surroundings that she did not want us to touch her and kept climbing off our knees and walking around on her elbows. We also tried to settle her down with a giant cuddly teddy bear but that didn’t help either. She just kept banging her poor head against the wall.”

Joss’ owner was a man named Dahlan. He admitted buying the baby orangutan for £25 because he felt sorry for her and was unaware that it was illegal to keep an orangutan as a pet. The primate lived in the house with him, his wife and four children.

Video shows baby orangutan traumatised by years in captivity

Karmele Llano Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia says: "With the rising number of orangutans our team has rescued from burnt forest during recent months, Joss is now the 99th orangutan we have taken in to our rehabilitation centre.”

“As is the case for the other orangutans at the centre, efforts to rehabilitate Joss and prepare her for eventual return to the wild will take many years. This lengthy period of time is not only necessary for them to learn the skills to survive, but also to recover from the psychological trauma of being captured and kept in captivity.

“As in the case of little Joss, traumas that cause psychological damage are often harder to treat than physical injuries. Keeping orangutans as pets is not only illegal, it is also incredibly cruel for these sensitive and intelligent primates.”

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