This is the heart-breaking moment a tiny baby orangutan desperately clung to his mother moments after the starving ape had been tranquilized by rescue workers.
Staring into the camera with human-like emotion, the baby ape acts just as a child would clinging to his mother.
The malnourished pair were rescued from a plantation in Borneo after their natural habitat was destroyed by forest fires.
The pictures show the mother was so emaciated from lack of food her leg and hip bones are clearly visible.
Despite starving, the female orangutan was so fierce in her determination not to let rescuers near her baby it took three tranquilizer darts before she fell and landed safely in nets.
Ayu Budi Handayani, a veterinarian for International Animal Rescue (IAR), said: ‘It is amazing that, despite the fact that she was so skinny and weak, this mother was still determined to protect her baby.
She had already undergone the trauma of fleeing from the fires and losing all sources of food and shelter and then she had to contend with being hit by an anaesthetic dart and caught in a net.
The poor thing couldn’t know that we were there to help not harm her.
IAR have now taken in the mother and baby dubbed Mama Nam and baby Nam since the pair were rescued in late January.
Since being cared for, Mama Nam – though to be aged about 20 – is now producing milk for her baby, aged about two or three.
The pair were found badly starving on a plantation after villagers in Semanai, Simpang Tiga village complained that the animals were eating their crops. A team from IAR in West Borneo, travelled to the village in the district of Sukadana, about one and a half hour’s drive away, and camped out under the tree where the apes were resting for the night.
The following day, in spite of the mother’s shocking physical condition, it took three anaesthetic darts to make her release her grip on the tree and fall into the net below – with her baby still clinging to her.
After assessing the mother’s and baby’s condition the rescue team decided to take them both back to IAR’s Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang.
Karmele Llano Sanchez, programme director of International Animal Rescue in Indonesia, said: ‘This poor mother and her baby have been without food for many months because their habitat has been destroyed by fire.
It is heartbreaking to see wild orangutans in this extreme state of starvation. We are still dealing with the consequences of the fires that devastated large forested areas in Ketapang last year.
And we are expecting a long drought season again this year as a result of the El Nino, with the risk of more forest fires to come.
We are already making plans to prevent a recurrence of last year’s fires which destroyed some of the forest at our own centre.
But the horror of rescuing animals from the burning forest and seeing their habitats wiped out before our very eyes is almost impossible to bear.
We need all the help and support we can muster if we are to save more orangutans’ lives in the coming months.
International Animal Rescue CEO Alan Knight said: ‘I hear from the vets at our centre that the mother orangutan is now producing milk for her baby which is wonderful news.
I hope it won’t be long before both mother and baby are fit enough to be released into a protected area of forest where there is a plentiful supply of fruits and other food to sustain them.
I do urge the public please to continue supporting International Animal Rescue so that our team in Borneo is fully equipped to continue the fight to save these magnificent orangutans during the difficult months ahead.