The only known albino orangutan on Earth has been photographed alive and well in a Borneo rainforest, more than a year after being released back into the wild.
Alba – named after the Latin word for white – was rescued by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in 2017, after they discovered her starving in a cage where she had been kept as a pet by villagers in Tanggirang Village, Central Kalimantan.
The blue-eyed, pale furred primate was found to be severely underweight, dehydrated and covered in parasites. Sadly, experts believed she had become separated from her mother before being captured.
At that point, Alba was not able to make an immediate return to the wild due to albinism-related health issues, which could well have left her vulnerable to hunters.
Primates with albinism may suffer poor eyesight and hearing, and can also face increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
After restoring Alba to good health, the foundation released her into the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR) on 18 December 2018, with the primate having become both physically strong and knowledgeable about survival techniques.
Alba, who is believed to be around six years old, was electronically tagged, and is monitored regularly by a medical team. Happily, she is thought to be doing very well indeed.
The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) last observed Alba in February, during what was to be a heartwarming reunion with three newly released orangutans.
Immediately following the release of these three orangutans – which were observed by the BOS Foundation’s post-release monitoring (PRM) team – one of them, Unyu, encountered Alba out in the forest.
The two females had been housed together and had clearly bonded during their time at the BOSF’s Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre.
Head of the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Authority (BTNBBBR), Agung Nugroho said:
I have received reports that Alba is capable of extensive exploration, skilful foraging, and deft nest building. She also socializes with other released orangutans within the national park. This is truly positive. We all hope that Alba continues to survive in this forest, and live wild.
According to the foundation website, observations revealed, on average, Alba spends 56.5% of her active hours feeding in the forest, 27.2% of her time travelling, 13.8% of her time resting, and 2.2% of her time in other endeavours, including nesting and social interactions.
The team will continue observing Alba for the foreseeable future, keeping an eye on her as she continues her journey in the wild.