[monkeywire] Hospital that heals baby apes
josh.greenman at gmail.com
Thu Mar 19 19:27:37 EDT 2009
Hospital that heals baby apes
By TIM SPANTON
THESE cheeky youngsters look cute enough for pin-up posters as they
monkey around in their nappies for the camera.
But behind their crazy ape japes there is a serious reason for
treating the baby orang-utans like human infants.
They have all been abandoned or injured at an early age, leaving staff
at a unique intensive care unit in the heart of the Malaysian jungle
to work around the clock to care for them.
With two-hourly feeds and 30- minute checks, the patients need all the
care human babies do.
But unlike their hairless distant cousins, the orang-utans can get up
to advanced mischief as soon as their carers’ backs are turned.
Pulling at a heart monitor cable or trying to suck on an intravenous
drip is a fun game for three-month-old June-Junior and her pal April,
ten months. They are among 23 Borneo orang-utans at the unit, which is
part of a conservation centre called Orang-Utan Island.
Head vet Dr Sabapathy Dharmalingam says: “It is a matter of the
survival of the species. The plan is to start returning them to the
wild in a secret location in Borneo.
“April is in intensive care after being rejected by her mother, who
was very aggressive towards her.
“June-Junior is a more serious case as she was born weighing just 2lb
6oz and had respiratory problems. We frequently have to put her into
an incubator because her temperature falls.”
It costs £30,000 a year to staff the orang-utan hospital and the cash
comes from admission fees to a nearby wildlife park.
Dr Sabapathy adds: “The babies stay in the intensive care unit until
they are almost a year old and are then moved to our infant
development unit. There they are taught how to survive in the wild and
their human contact is gradually cut to a minimum.”
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