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Public gives rare Indonesian albino orangutan surprisingly normal name

Rare albino orangutan
Rare Indonesian albino orangutan was named Alba after conservation group calls for suggestions. Photo: BOSF/Indryana
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A rare albino orangutan rescued in Indonesia has been named Alba after thousands of suggestions were sent from around the world.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said the name means “white” in Latin and “dawn” in Spanish. It hopes the animal will be an ambassador for the critically endangered species.

The extremely rare orangutan was rescued from a cage in the Indonesian part of Borneo last month, after it was captured by villagers in Central Kalimantan.

Alba was the first albino orangutan to be encountered by the foundation in its 25 years of conservation work.

It was dehydrated, weak and suffering from a parasitic infection when rescued. After days of special care, Alba’s appetite has improved and her weight has increased by several kilograms, the foundation said.

People were asked to send in their suggestions for names – a bold move, with “Boaty McBoatface” still fresh in the internet’s collective memory.

The foundation is collecting information on albinism in great apes to help decide the primate’s future.

Its CEO, Jamartin Sihite, said: “We can’t simply place Alba in a forest area, nor in a sanctuary, without thoroughly examining all possibilities.”

The foundation teaches rescued primates to fend for themselves and eventually releases them back into the jungle.

It normally takes up to eight years to teach a captive orangutan to find its own food and survive independently – but this orangutan may be released much more quickly than that.

“She is showing some wild behaviour,” foundation spokesman Nico Hermanu said earlier. “We think she may be able to return to the wild.”

Local police had heard about the orangutan and Indonesian authorities asked the BOSF to rescue the primate.

The foundation cares for about 700 orangutans at jungle camps and rehabilitation centres in Kalimantan.

Orangutans, reddish-brown primates known for their gentle temperament and intelligence, live in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo, which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the number of Bornean orangutans has dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s and will further decline to 47,000 by 2025.

Bornean orangutans were declared critically endangered by the IUCN last year due to hunting for their meat and conflicts with plantation workers, which kills 2,000 to 3,000 a year, and destruction of tropical forests for plantation agriculture. The only other orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan, has been critically endangered since 2008.