By Kate Harrold
MEET THE conservationists saving one of the world’s RAREST primates – the Sumatran orangutan.
In one image, a mask-clad veterinarian held an oxygen mask onto the face of a young 35-pound orangutan, who seemed happy to receive the care and attention.
In another, a similarly aged orangutan laid sedated in a surgical suite as conservationists ran tests to check up on the primate’s vitals.
Photographer Maxime Aliaga (36) from Montpellier, France, captured the images whilst visiting the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program near Medan in northern Sumatra. Maxime spent several days with the staff and underwent a full health check to ensure he would not pass anything harmful onto the animals.
The conservationists rehabilitate Sumatran orangutans who have been confiscated by the authorities from those who are illegally holding the primates. After undergoing health checks, the orangutans are isolated for 90 days to prevent any disease transmission before they’re re-introduced to other orangutans and eventually, the wild.
“I’ve been documenting the incredible work of SOCP for four years,” Maxime said.
“I spend a lot of time in the field station where the staff follow and study the wild Sumatran orangutan population. It’s there that I’ve been able to photograph the newly discovered species, the Tapanuli orangutan.
“I’ve also seen the quarantine centre which is where the conservationists rescue injured or confiscated orangutans. They’ve released 250 orangutans back in to the wild already.
“I feel privileged to have witnessed their work but it can also make a bit anxious. I feel like I am the messenger and I have a mission to tell their story and raise awareness around their work and orangutan conservation.
“These creatures have lived in total harmony with their ecosystem for years. It provides them with everything they need for survival but now, that is under threat.
“Orangutans are an umbrella species. Saving them saves so many other species in our natural world.
“I want to thank SOCP for all their incredible work on a daily basis as they try to preserve our natural heritage.”
Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered and there are thought to only be around 14,000 left, making them one of the planet’s rarest species of primate.
Deforestation and the illegal sale of the creatures in the exotic pet trade have contributed to dwindling numbers, which is why it’s so important for Sumatran orangutans to be given a thorough health check before being released back into the wild.
Maxime used a Canon 5D MK IV camera.