JAKARTA, Indonesia — A conservation group in Indonesia says it wants to create a 5-hectare (12-acre) “forest island” for the world’s only known albino orangutan after rescuing it from villagers earlier this year.

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said Wednesday that the 5-year-old orangutan, which it named Alba, can’t be safely returned to the wild because of health issues related to her albinism including poor sight and hearing and the likelihood of skin cancer later in life.

Spokesman Nico Hermanu said the foundation is starting a public appeal to raise $80,000 needed to buy land for the special reserve near its orangutan rehabilitation center in central Kalimantan on the giant island of Borneo.

“To ensure that Alba can live a free and fulfilling life we are making her a forest island home, where she can live freely in natural habitat, but protected from threats posed by humans,” the foundation said.

It said Alba would share the moat-enclosed reserve with three other orangutans she has bonded with since being rescued from Tanggiran village in Central Kalimantan in late April after apparently becoming separated from her mother.

At the time, the great ape was in poor condition, suffering from a parasitic infection and dehydration but since then has more than doubled in weight.

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

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which declared Borneo’s orangutans critically endangered last year, says their numbers have dropped by nearly two-thirds since the early 1970s as plantation agriculture destroyed and fragmented their forest habitat.

The Sumatran orangutan is a separate species and has been critically endangered since 2008.

Alba means “white” in Latin and “dawn” in Spanish and was chosen in May after thousands of suggestions were sent in from around the world.

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STEPHEN WRIGHT
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