Sumatra’s Orang-utans: Chocolate’s Road to Freedom

Dr Ian Singleton comforts Chocolate the Sumatran orangutan momnets before he's released. Photo: Paul Hilton for WildLife Asia

This article is brought to you by the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Read our other articles on the National Geographic Voices blog featuring the work of our iLCP Fellow Photographers all around the world.

Text and Photos by iLCP Fellow Paul Hilton

Dr Ian Singleton comforts Chocolate the Sumatran orangutan momnets before he’s released. Photo: Paul Hilton for WildLife Asia

FEBRUARY, 2016: I’m on assignment for WildLife Asia, heading to one of the release sites in Sumatra to free a critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan, named Chocolate.
The road into Jantho, a release site for Sumatran orangutans, Sumatra, Indonesai. Photo: Paul Hilton for WildLife Asia
The road into Jantho, a release site for Sumatran orangutans, Sumatra, Indonesai. Photo: Paul Hilton for WildLife Asia
Our 4 x 4 slides into another ditch as mud flies in all directions. The road into Jantho makes all my previous 4 x 4 experience pale into insignificance. Winching from vehicle to vehicle and then between the trees, the vehicle crawls up another hill. The journey sends my mind back to the 2012 assignment when we found Chocolate. I was part of an investigation team looking into the illegal palm oil expansion in the Tripa peat swamp, located in the Leuser Ecosystem, home to the largest surviving population of Sumatran orang-utan. I can recall at one point, I asked a group of villagers if they had seen any orang-utans, or knew where I could see one. That was all it took, as minutes later, I was asked to follow a guy on a motorbike down a narrow alleyway, before another motorbike rider appeared and asked us to follow him down a backstreet —> Read More

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