Following a tipoff, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India is offering a reward of up to Rs 1 lakh for information leading to the rescue of a baby orangutan who was illegally traded in Mumbai and to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible. Following complaints made by the Maharashtra Forest Department and PETA India, Mumbai police are working to apprehend the perpetrators and rescue the animal.
Anyone with information about this case should contact PETA India's animal-emergency helpline on +91 9820122602 or e-mail Info@petaindia.org. Informers' identities will be kept confidential upon request.
An inspection conducted by the Forest Department and PETA India's veterinarian on 7 July 2020 at a suspect's house in Agripada confirmed the presence of a baby orangutan on the premises, but the illegal custodian absconded with the little ape. PETA India received a complaint after a family in Bandra who was given temporary custody of the orangutan posted pictures and videos of him or her on social media. The investigation by the Forest Department established that the animal was illegally imported into India without the required permit from the country of origin, an import permit from India's director general of foreign trade, or any other relevant approvals from Animal Quarantine and Certification Services or the customs department in India. PETA India filed a complaint with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
PETA India aims to work with the state and central governments to rescue the baby orangutan and place the animal in a lush sanctuary in a home country to the species, where he or she would have the opportunity for companionship with other orangutans.
Photographs and video footage of the orangutan posted on social media and photographs from the Forest Department's inspection can be viewed and downloaded here.
"We're calling on anyone with information to come forward to help prevent this vulnerable individual from being exploited as a prop, toy, or showpiece," says PETA India Manager of Veterinary Services Dr Rashmi Gokhale. "Orangutans in their natural homes normally swing from tree to tree, with the whole tropical rainforest as their playground. In captivity, they sit in barren cages or on hard surfaces that are inappropriate for their legs, are stared at by humans, and have no real life at all."
Orangutans are a species of great apes native to Indonesia and Malaysia and are listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Illegal trade of orangutans is regularly reported in India. In 2015, before Andhra Pradesh police could catch an international smuggling gang with two baby orangutans near Eluru in West Godavari district, two of its members managed to flee with the animals.
The word "orangutan" means "person of the forest" in Malay. In Borneo, orangutans spend most of their lives walking, swinging, and climbing through dense rainforests. These highly intelligent great apes are known to make tools, using leaves as umbrellas or cups to drink water from. They are semi-solitary and value their privacy, but in captivity, they're used as attractions and constantly surrounded by people. They're denied the opportunity to learn critical life skills or engage in activities that are meaningful to them.