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Orangutan of the Month: Mohtar

Tracy Tannenbaum and Ron Austerlade visited Tanjung Puting in April and September of 1998 and again in April 1999. They fell in love with many of the park’s orangutan residents, but their favorite is this month’s “Orangutan of the Month”!

Mohtar is an eight year old ex-captive orangutan with a sweet face and an unforgettable personality. His mother was killed and he was kept illegally as a pet until he was rescued by a local Indonesian who brought him to Camp Leaky. When Mohtar was first brought to the camp, he was very shy and scared. The rangers said that this was a result of the abuse he received when he was kept as a pet.

“The first time I met Mohtar was in April of 1998. He was small for his age and had no companions. I found him sitting in a patch of grass by the ranger’s station fighting a cold (he was sneezing every few minutes). We formed a special bond that day as we played for hours and hours. I was sad to leave him at the feeding station later that afternoon – he seemed so lonely. I was lucky enough to spend many more hours with him over the two days that followed. Mohtar truly seemed to enjoy our time together and I believed that I had made a friend for life.

When my husband and I returned 5 months later for our second trip to Camp Leaky we learned that Mohtar had been severely injured and almost died. A ranger found him in the forest and the veterinarian operated on him and saved his life. He had just been returned to the forest shortly before we arrived, after recuperating in a cage for several months. The rangers helped us find Mohtar in the rainforest high up in a tree. He seemed very nervous and was constantly looking over his shoulder. I was truly touched when after speaking to him for several minutes he came down from the tree, came over to me and gave me a big hug. He truly seemed to remember me! I could see his two huge scars, but he appeared to be mostly recovered. When we returned to Camp Leaky for the third time Mohtar had grown significantly and appeared very strong and healthy. He was now traveling around with his friends Tata and Porwasi. We hope that Mohtar continues to grow healthy and strong and that maybe someday he will become the dominant male at Camp Leaky.

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