With stunning blue eyes and chalky white hair, ‘Alba’ is an unspeakably rare primate.
Having recently been put on the critically endangered species list, the chances of discovering an albino, Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) are undoubtedly low.
Potentially, her existence would have never made headlines, had a police tip off not informed the Bornean Survival Orangutan Foundation (BOSF) to her whereabouts.
Held captive in a village located in southern Borneo, the unique primate was rescued through a cooperative effort between BOSF and the Central Kalimantan BKSDA.
Unfortunately, juvenile orangutans continue to become victims through loss of habitat, competition with the palm oil industry and the illegal pet trade. It’s likely she was separated from her mother under traumatic circumstances.
At just 5 years of age, she was discovered in a frail condition weighing a mere 8.3 kilograms and suffering from a multitude of factors, including high stress levels, dehydration, a lack of appetite and a parasitic infection. She was placed under 24hr treatment at the Orangutan Reintroduction Center at Nyaru Menteng.
Thankfully, 10 days in, the young orangutan has made great progress; accepting a more varied diet and gaining over 4.5 kilograms.
While in care, the BOS foundation put the word out for the public to name their special patient. After thousands of entries (including ‘Orangu-doesn’t-tan’), they settled on the name ‘Alba’, meaning: ‘White’ in Latin, and ‘Dawn’ in Spanish.
The foundation, are hoping Alba can help lead to a new dawn for Indonesia’s iconic primates, as an ambassador; as both the Bornean and Sumatran species, now classified as critically endangered.
Whether Alba can be returned to the wild, remains to be seen:
“We can’t simply place Alba in a forest area, nor in a sanctuary, without thoroughly examining all possibilities. So far we have been unable to find any other example of an albino orangutan and we need to know more about her and her special situation. Her welfare and safety will be at the forefront of decisions on her future,” said Dr. Jamartin Sihite, BOS Foundation CEO.
You can follow Alba’s journey to recovery on the BOSF website.