An X-ray showed at least 74 pellets in its body, including four in its left eyes and two in the right, said Yenny Saraswati, a veterinarian with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.
She said the female ape, named “Hope” by the team of rescuers, was blinded by the shooting and also had several open wounds believed to have been caused by sharp objects.
Hope underwent surgery on Sunday to repair a broken collarbone and is now recovering from the ordeal, but her month-old baby died from malnutrition.
Conflicts between orangutans and people in the region have risen as the palm oil and paper industries shrink the animals’ jungle habitat.
Villagers first spotted the severely wounded orangutan in a farm in Aceh province’s Subulussalam district last week with its new baby, which was suffering from critical malnutrition, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, who heads the Aceh provincial conservation agency.
Rescuers then took the two animals to an orangutan veterinary clinic in neighbouring North Sumatra province’s Sibolangit district, but could not save the baby.
“Hopefully Hope can pass this critical period, but she cannot be released to the wild anymore,” Ms Saraswati said.
She explained that specialists only removed seven of the gun pellets during the operation because they had to prioritise fixing the animal’s broken collarbone and the risk of infection that it posed.
The orangutan conservation programme said the use of readily available air guns to shoot and kill wildlife, including orangutans, is a major problem in Indonesia.
It said in the past 10 years, it has treated more than 15 orangutans with a total of nearly 500 air gun pellets in their bodies.
Last year, an orangutan in the Indonesian part of Borneo died after being shot at least 130 times with an air gun, the second known killing of an orangutan that year.
A 2018 comprehensive study of Borneo’s orangutans estimates that their numbers have plummeted by more than 100,000 since 1999, as the palm oil and paper industries shrink their habitat and fatal conflicts with people increase.
Only around 13,400 Sumatran orangutans remain in the wild. The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Additional reporting by AP
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