Conservationists are praying Hope lives up to her name and pulls through after the mindless shooting that not only left her blind but smashed bones and pur her at risk from deadly infection. Tragically, Hope’s month old baby died after the appalling shooting as she was left helpless and unable to feed herself or her new born son. Veterinary experts are now giving Hope a chance after performing intricate surgery on her wounds at the start of a long road to recovery.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme today released a series of pictures of Hope undergoing surgery at its quarantine and rehabilitation centre.
SOCP’s veterinary team was joined by a specialist Swiss human orthopaedic and trauma surgeon to repair the critically endangered orangutan’s smashed collar bone and throat air sac, which had become infected after the shooting.
X-rays taken when Hope was rescued show the damage inflicted during the shooting, with vast numbers of metal pellets embedded in her body.
Three hours of surgery saw infected bone and tissue being removed and replaced with pin and six screws, yet for all the care and expertise Hope received, she will never be able to return to the wild rainforests.
Hope the orangutan blinded after being shot 74 times (Image: GETTY)
Hope undergoes surgery to her smashed collar bone (Image: YEL-SOCP/Suryadi)
X-ray shows surgical repair and pellets still embedded in Hope (Image: YEL-SOCP/Suryadi)
Dr Citrakasih Nente, SOCP’s supervisor of rehabilitation and reintroduction, explained why Hope cannot go back to the wild forests of her ancestors. She said: “For Hope it’s sad that even if we are successful in patching her up after her ordeal, she will never be able to be released to the wild again, as she’s now totally blind due to being shot in both eyes.
“As such, she will be a candidate to be cared for, for the rest of her days, at the SOCP’s new Orangutan Haven project, we are developing in North Sumatra.”
There are still concerns for Hope as she recovers from the operation with many pellets still embedded.
SOCP’s senior vet Dr Yenny Saraswat explained: “During the operation we did not remove any of the numerous air rifle pellets still scattered throughout Hope’s body, as we have to prioritise her broken collarbone and the risk of infection that is posing in her shoulder.
“The operation went as well as we could have hoped though, and we hope that her recovery will likewise go smoothly and without complications. It’s still early days, but let’s hope so anyway.”
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Hope was left blind after being shot 74 times (Image: GETTY)
Although orangutans are protected by law on Sumatra they face a perilous future as their forest habitat vanishes to make way for plantations and flash-points erupt when they fall foul of local communities. Air guns appear the weapon of choice of people wanting to attack the great apes.
Over the past decade, SOCP has dealt with 15 orangutan shootings, tallying a total of 500 pellet wounds. More than 370 orangutans have also been welcomed at the group’s rescue centre, with almost three quarters later released at either a reintroduction centre or in the forests of Aceh province.
With only 13,400 Sumatran orangutans left alive and fewer than 800 of the recently discovered Tapanuli orangutans, both are classified as Critically Endangered on the Red List of Threatened species, a listing one step from extinction.
An official from Sumatra’s forestry department explained: “Orangutans are a protected species under Indonesian law. It’s strictly forbidden to kill, catch, keep, injure or trade an orangutan with fines for doing so up £5,000 and prison terms as long as five years. People should not engage in these activities if they are not prepared to face the legal consequences.”