Footage released by International Animal Rescue (IAR) show an orphaned baby orangutan taking on one of the scariest tasks in life – his first day of school. Four-month-old Gatot has been looked after at the rehabilitation centre in Ketapang, West Borneo since last august.
Orphaned baby orangutans like Gatot attend 'baby school' at the centre where they learn how to socialise with other orangutans, along with basic climbing skills, while being supervised – if they are deemed to be sufficiently confident, they move onto 'forest school' where they are monitored to see if they display natural behaviours and would be able to survive in the wild.
In the video, Gatot can be seen grabbing hold of another baby who does not seem pleased, before a young female comes and comforts him. "The first day at any school is tough and it is heartbreaking to see little Gatot seeking comfort from the other orangutans around him. However it is among his own kind that he will learn the behaviours and the skills he will need to prepare him for life back in the wild. I've no doubt that he will soon adapt to his new environment and start to grow in confidence," said Alan Knight, CEO of IAR.
Gatot was found abandoned in the forest by a man looking for firewood. The man took Gatot home and kept him as a pet for two months, treating him much like a human baby. IAR learned of Gatot's situation and sent out a team to retrieve him in August 2015.
"This tiny baby is almost certainly an orphan because his mother would never have simply abandoned him in the forest. Baby orangutans stay with their mothers until they are seven or eight years old. It is heartbreaking to see such a young infant without his mother to comfort and protect him. The good news for Gatot is that he is now in the hands of our expert team and they will give him the best chance of surviving and returning one day to his home in the forest," said Knight.
Both species of orangutan - Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus - are classified as critically endangered.