We try so hard, we do our outmost best, but sometimes, just once or twice, things go wrong. Everything we did that day, when we tried to save Fio and her mother from starvation in the palm oil plantation, went wrong.... deadly wrong.

The rescue team spotted Fio and her mother in a small patch of open forest in the middle of a palm oil plantation. The few trees left were approx 5-10 meters high but one stood taller at about 15 meters. As soon as Fio's mother saw the team she did what any orang-utan would do and took refuge in the tallest and safest tree. The team cleared the ground around the tree and the climber took the tranquilizer gun and climbed an adjacent tree in order to get a better shot at the mother. (the gun is not quite so accurate when having to shoot almost 15 m vertically up in the air). He found him- self a safe branch and got himself in position for the shot. Just as he shot, the mother moved and as unfortunately as anyone can get the tranquilizer burrowed it self deep in the knee of the infant. This tiny infant, in just that second it takes to empty, received a dose of tranquilizer that was meant for an adult and could easily kill her. The team panicked. This had never happened before. They knew time was not on their side and made the decision to quickly tranquilize the mother and hope she would fall quickly, so they still had time to safe her infant.

Again nothing went as they predicted. The mother was fast asleep but was "stuck" in the fork of a branch...she could not fall. They needed to move fast. Climbing the tree was difficult because the girth was over 50 cm in diameter (since this incident the team is now equipped with professional climbing equipment). The team made a decision to cut down the tree, it was a difficult decision as it could potentially be very dangerous. They needed to act fast. The infant had by now been tran- quilized for over 15 minutes, she was possible already dead. The tree was cut. The mother and the infant fell with the tree.

For the third time that day things went wrong. Just where the mother and her infant fell there was a big dead wooden log. The mother still being tranquilized was still breathing, still doing ok. The infant was in bad trouble. She was given antidote, but she was in a coma. The paramedic put her on IV wrapped her up to keep her warm and then attended to the mother. Unfortu- nately the mother never regained consciousness and died there in the field with her infant struggling to hang on herself. The mother died from internal bleeding. She was very skinny and had no more milk in her breasts. Fio, as they named the infant, was skinny beyond belief. She was now strug- gling to hold on to life. The team buried the mother and brought Fio to the camp. Here they cared for her over the next couple of days not daring to put her through the long and bumpy journey to Nyaru Menteng. After being comatosed for a little over 48 hrs, Fio finally opend her eyes again. She was extremely weak. Her knee was swollen and she must have had a small branch grazing her eye during the fall. There was a bit of damage to the eye.

Fio was brought back to Nyaru Menteng on July 24, we were all choked to see her in a state like this and she was immediately put in 24 hrs intensive care. She weighed 1,6 kilo and was approx 5-6 months old.

Since then we have had many ups and downs with Fio. For a long time after her arrival she was crying a lot. Her leg and her eye must have been given her so much pain. We kept her on pain killers for almost a month until her knee started improving. The eye had by the collapsed slightly and had dried out. She still would only take little food and drink. Several times we had her on IV. As time has passed by Fio has slowly gained some weight, but occasionally she will drop and get dehydrated. Then she goes on IV again. Then she is ok for a while and it all starts over again.

We are not really surprised that she is having some difficulties now and then. What surprises us is the fact that she is still alive. Accord- ing to theory she should have died of such a huge overdose.

It has become apparent to us that Fio is a fighter. Today she is capable of climbing around in the trees on her own and likes to explore in the vicinity of her caretakers. Though she is a great fan of love and attention she has started to show her independence also.

Luckily Fio is getting as much love and attention as she possibly wants. Perhaps because she has a special place in everyone's heart due to her past. She is taken care of with so much attention, so much love that it occasionally leaves the other infant slightly jealous.

The story is so sad. We often wish it was untrue, but sometimes we fail and this time was one of them. We try to convince our selves that both Fio and her mother would have died from starvation within a week or two if we had not found them and at least tried to save them. ...but some how it does not make us feel any better.

Our only comfort is to see Fio improving and full of life, and not to forget those many, many other wild orangutans we have successfully given another chance in life.

Nyaru Menteng, December 2004 Lone Droscher-Nielsen, Project Manager Nyaru Menteng

Background Story Fio
Certificate of adoption Fio