JAKARTA, Indonesia – A conservation group says a rare albino orangutan rescued in Indonesia has been named “Alba” after thousands of suggestions were sent from around the world.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said the name means “white” in Latin and “dawn” in Spanish. It hopes the animal will be an ambassador for the critically endangered species.
The 5-year-old female was rescued from captivity in a village on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island on April 29. It was the first albino orangutan to be encountered by the foundation in its 25 years of conservation work.
The group is collecting information on albinism in great apes to help it decide the primate’s future.
“We can’t simply place Alba in a forest area, nor in a sanctuary, without thoroughly examining all possibilities,” the foundation’s CEO, Jamartin Sihite, said in a statement.
The orangutan was dehydrated, weak and suffering from a parasitic infection when rescued. After days of special care, Alba’s appetite has improved and her weight has increased by several kilograms, the foundation said.
Orangutans, reddish-brown primates known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, live in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025.
Bornean orangutans were declared critically endangered by the IUCN last year due to hunting for their meat and conflicts with plantation workers, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, has been critically endangered since 2008.