This Orangutan Was Traumatized When Her Baby Was Stolen. Then At Their Reunion Everything Changed

When Clara the orangutan had her baby taken from her by a dominant male, she must have thought she’d never see her again. But thanks to the team that was caring for the animals, the mother was reunited with her child. And the special meeting changed everything.
Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue Center is located near Palangka Raya in Indonesian Borneo. And since opening its doors in 1999 the facility has developed into the largest unit devoted to orangutan welfare in the whole world.
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Nyaru Menteng is ideally located. The center is nestled in thick forest where orangutans can learn, or re-learn, how to survive in the wild while still being cared for by a team of 200 people. With this experience of their natural habitat, the animals at the facility are usually eligible for release back into the jungle.
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Care given to the orangutans at Nyaru Menteng is tailored depending on what age they’re at. For example, infant orangutans are placed in a “Baby School” where they receive round-the-clock monitoring as they make their first steps in the world.
Image: Khamkhor
After that, they graduate to “Forest School.” At this stage, the orangutans have more independence to hone their climbing skills and figure out how to find their own food. Only then can they progress to “Orangutan University.”
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Image: BBC Earth
The Orangutan University is located across five river islands on the Rungan River, which runs behind the center. Here staff provide the animals with basic food supplies only. This encourages them to fend for themselves so that they can cope with their eventual release back into the wild.
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Image: zoosnow
But while the orangutans at this stage have more independence than ever before, Nyaru Menteng staff still keep a close eye on the animals. Which meant they could step in to help one female orangutan called Clara when she needed it most.
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By summer 2017 Clara was at so-called Orangutan University. However, she shocked everyone when she unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl. Monitoring staff first spotted the infant in July 2017 and decided to call her Clarita.
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Image: skeeze
Orangutans are on the critical list for endangered species. So doubtless the conservation team at Nyaru Menteng were delighted by Clarita’s arrival. However, their joy turned to worry when – a few days later – Clara was seen without her child.
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Baby orangutans are completely reliant on their moms until they are two years old. And in the first four months, infants travel solely on their mother’s bellies. So it was important to find Clarita and reunite her with Clara if possible.
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Image: Wallula
After some searching, staff discovered that a 14-year-old male, called Rizki, had snatched Clarita from her mom. And while Rizki had behaved extremely tenderly to the infant, he was unable to provide her with the vital food she needed to survive. So a team from Nyaru Menteng set out on a rescue mission.
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Following numerous failed attempts to retrieve Clarita, the team finally succeeded. They rushed her to their clinic and treated her for malnutrition as well as a skin rash believed to have been caused by plant sap. However, it was her mother’s care that Clarita really needed.
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With that in mind, Clara was retrieved from the jungle and also brought to Nyaru Menteng. It was there that her reunion with Clarita would take place. However, no one could be sure if she would accept her baby following their 14-day-plus separation.
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The tense moment was captured on camera for British television showOrangutan Jungle School. In the footage, Clara sits in a cage as a babysitter brings Clarita to her. At first, the momma appears unmoved by her child as she stares through the bars. However, she soon becomes transfixed by the baby.
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Eventually, the babysitter places one of Clarita’s tiny hands into her mother’s. After that initial contact, Clara begins to stroke the infant gently on the head. “Clara was looking at her child as if she was glad,” the babysitter later reveals. “[She was] happy to see her child again.”
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Now that they believe Clara is warming to her child, center staff decide to take a risk by placing Clarita with her mom. In the heartwarming scenes that follow, Clara cradles her baby in her arms and holds her as close as she possibly can.
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But despite Clara’s clear affection for her baby, Clarita isn’t out of the woods just yet. Sometimes when orangutan mothers reject their babies, they neglect to feed them. So it was important for Clara to nurse her child if they were to have a future together.
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Luckily then, shortly after welcoming Clarita back into her arms, the baby begins to feed. Only then can the team caring for the mother and daughter breathe a collective sigh of relief. “It was one of the best moments [from] when I’ve worked here,” one vet later admitted on camera.
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Following their reunion, Clara and her baby went to live on another Orangutan University island. That way, Rizki – the individual who kidnapped Clarita – could not be tempted to take the infant again. Furthermore, Clara could now raise her without fear.
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In November 2017 a statement from Orangutan Outreach provided an update on the duo. It read, “To this day, Clarita continues to suckle and be doted on by her loving mother Clara.” So it seems the mother and daughter duo got the happy ending that they deserved.

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