A video has been released showing the traumatic effects living as a pet can have on young orangutans. The baby orangutan, known as Joss, is shown wrapping her arms tightly around her body nearly all of the time – a sign that she craves the comforting touch of her mother.
Joss was kept as a pet in Borneo for nearly two years, after her new 'owners' felt sorry for her, before being rescued by the International Animal Rescue (IAR). They were not aware at the time that keeping a pet orangutan is illegal, and that it is a very distressing experience for the wild animal; seen by her abnormal movements in the video.
"At first we tried to comfort her and hold her," said Jaclyn Eng, vet with the IAR. "But she was obviously so stressed in her new surroundings that she did not want us to touch her and kept climbing off our knees and walking around on her elbows."
The young primate was bought for 500 Indonesian Rupiahs (£25, US$36), and lived with a man, a woman, and four children. The IAR describe her time as a pet as being treated "like a toy or a teddy bear by the children." They say Joss was carried around, hugged and squeezed a lot of the time.
"Animals usually develop stereotypical behaviour as a coping mechanism in response to a stressful situation," said Eng. "Our team has never seen such a young baby orangutan exhibiting stereotypical behaviour like this. It is extremely distressing to watch because it must reflect the mental and emotional trauma little Joss is suffering."
Joss is seen constantly wrapping her arms around herself, and also bangs her head and knees on the ground. She only stops for a short 15 second period when she is given a bottle of milk.
Rescued on 5 January in Ketapang, West Borneo, experts believe Joss witnessed some truly horrific events in the wake of being captured to be sold as a pet. "It's likely that little Joss saw her mother being brutally killed before she was snatched from the forest and sold as a pet," said Alan Knight, Chief Executive of IAR. "This is the grim reality of what is happening to orangutans in Indonesia."
The IAR is calling for donations to help in the rescue and rehabilitation of other animals, just like Joss.