Alba, the albino orangutan, might just be the only one of her kind in the world. Having rescued her from captivity earlier this year, conservationists now want to create a huge “forest island” reserve for her so that she can live in peace.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation hopes to raise $80,000 to get the project up and running. Its plan is to home Alba, whose name means “white” in Latin, and three other orangutans in a huge 5-hectare (12-acre) reserve in central Kalimantan, Borneo, Associated Press reports. It will be surrounded by a moat and monitored to protect her from poachers.
Alba is thought to suffer from albinism, a genetic condition that results in a complete absence of melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin and hair. However, she has blue eyes, suggesting she might have leucism, a similar condition that causes a partial loss of melanin.
Both species of orangutan – Bornean the Sumatran – are critically endangered. They are only found on the south-east Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Alba, a Bornean Orangutan, is especially rare. There are an estimated 100,000 individuals left in the wild but this number is sharply falling due to habitat loss and poaching. There’s around 14,000 Sumatran Orangutans left in the wild and their future is no brighter than their cousins’ in Borneo.
Alba’s all-white pigmentation makes her a particularly easy and desirable target for poachers. It also means she has other health problems, such as issues with her vision and susceptibility to skin cancer. These problems make it nearly impossible for her to be returned to the wild.
The unbelievably rare ape was rescued on April 29, 2017, by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. The 5-year-old female was found in a remote village in Kapuas Regency, Borneo, after the charity received a tip-off by the Kapuas Hulu Chief of Police that she was being held by the locals in extremely poor conditions. At the time she was dehydrated, weak, and suffering from parasitic infections.
Now, thanks to the help of the foundation, she has regained her strength and has a brighter future ahead of her.