by Brigit Katz/Smithsonianmag.com
Last month, conservationists released three rehabilitated orangutans into Indonesia’s Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park. While monitoring one of the primates, whose name is Unyu, the team was happy to encounter a familiar and unique face. Alba, the world’s only known albino orangutan, made an appearance amid the rainforest—and one year after her own release into the wild, she seems to be doing just great.
With her bright blue eyes and pale fur, Alba is a rarity among rarities. The three species of orangutan—Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli—are critically endangered, and today exist only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on the island of Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. These great apes are threatened primarily by habitat loss, as huge swaths of their native forests have been cleared for agricultural purposes, particularly palm oil production. Orangutans are sometimes hunted for food or attacked when their diminishing habitat pushes them into contact with humans.
Orangutans, particularly young ones, are also captured for the illegal pet trade. According to Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky, Alba, a Bornean orangutan, was rescued in 2017 after being captured and caged by villagers in the Indonesian portion of Borneo…