KEY POINTS

  • Alba was rescued after curious villagers captured her and kept her captive
  • She was released after recovering for two years
  • She was spotted with a recently released orangutan she spent time with in the facility
  • The sighting is good news for critically endangered Bornean orangutans

Over a year after she was released into the wild, conservationists spotted the albino orangutan, Alba, thriving in her natural habitat. The discovery is not just good news for Alba but, for her entire species as well.

Alba Thriving In Borneo

In 2017, Alba, the only known albino orangutan in the world, was captured by curious villagers who held her captive for two days before she was rescued by authorities and conservationists. By that time, Alba was already dehydrated, stressed and infected with parasitic worms so she had to be brought to a rehabilitation facility where she took two years before making a full recovery.

By Dec. 19, 2018, Alba was released back into the wild.

At post-release monitoring of three recently released orangutans, conservationists spotted the recently released Unyu with Alba. The sighting was rather like a reunion since Unyu was one of the orangutans Alba had been housed with during her time at Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation's (BOSF) Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Center. Alba has also been spotted with the other orangutans that were released by BOSF in previous sightings.

Back To The Wild

Conservationists make sure that the orangutans would not be too habituated to humans so that they would not lose their independence. In Alba's case, BOSF notes that Alba had a "firm dislike" for human presence, which is why coming back to the wild was not a problem for her at all.

Since the release, monitoring reveals that Alba seems to be thriving in the wild, showing that she did not forget the skills that her mother taught her during the estimated 4-5 years they spent together in the wild before she was captured.

"I have received reports that Alba is capable of extensive exploration, skillful 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," the head of Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Authority, Agung Nugroho, said.

Critically Endangered

Typically, animals with albinism have a harder time surviving in the wild because their coloration makes them easier for predators to see. In fact, some even get eaten or even hunted by poachers or trophy hunters before they make it to adulthood.

In Alba's case, seeing her thriving in the wild is not just good news for her as an animal with albinism but it is also good news for her entire species.

Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered under the IUCN Red List and the population continues to be on a downward trend. Threats to the species include residential and commercial development, agriculture, mining, hunting, and other human-related threats.