Kesi’s story: Survival against the odds

Kesi's injuries make climbing a challenge

Kesi's injuries make climbing a challenge

Kesi is an orphaned orangutan, cared for by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. Since her rescue, Kesi has been learning skills which may enable her to live independently one day. Meike, one of her carers, tells Kesi’s story.

“Kesi’s name means ‘child born in difficult times’. After reading her story you will understand the significance it holds.

One evening, a small bundle was brought to the Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation centre by Eko, a veterinary paramedic returning from a rescue operation. Inside, there was a tiny orangutan, approximately three months old, her intelligent eyes wide open.

Then we saw her left arm: there was a stump where her hand should be. I had to look away. I was able to imagine the scene well; it is a familiar story at Nyaru Menteng:

A shortage of food in the decimated forest forces Kesi’s mother to travel towards the danger of village crops. The mother walks, too weak to climb, Kesi holding on. Suddenly, people attack with machetes, killing the adult ape. The baby – who is gripping her so tightly – loses her hand. The infant is allowed to live, perhaps to be sold into the black market pet trade. 

After our initial shock we also saw that it was difficult for Kesi to open her left foot. We found a large scar there, presumably from the same machete that cut off her hand. We hoped in time her foot would begin to open, giving her a chance to climb."

A better future

Kesi has adpated to use her arm, despite her missing hand

Kesi has adpated to use her arm, despite her missing hand

© Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

"Since that night, Kesi has made great progress – she can now climb smaller trees by herself, using her toes to hold on. However, she still needs help to come back down and when a carer doesn’t arrive fast enough (they usually have several other small orangutans hanging on their legs) Kesi will shout as loudly as she can.

Although unable to keep up with the other orangutans in the group, Kesi perseveres. She always tries to reach a higher branch, to follow her companions; she never gives up. She is adapting to her damaged arm too, using the stump to move leaves to her mouth while hanging in the trees.

Kesi truly is a ‘child born in difficult times’. The orangutans are all facing difficult times now; they live under the dominance of humankind and we are destroying the very forests that offer them food and safety.”

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