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Update on Melay the Orangutan

Panorama reporter Raphael Rowe received good news this week courtesy of the International Animal Rescue (IAR) in Indonesia.

Alan Knight, chief executive of IAR, was in touch to say that Melay, the 15-year-old orangutan that Panorama first encountered while filming Dying for A Biscuit about the palm oil industry late last year, has finally been rescued.

The rescue came after the animal spent most of her life chained to a porch in a remote fishing village in Borneo. First captured as a baby for a family pet, her mother had been shot and Melay had long since been neglected and fed on food scraps.

Veterinarian Karmele Llano Sanchez, who took part in the rescue, said the team feared that Melay's owners may have sold her in the time it took to obtain the official documentation to seize the animal.

"We knew Melay's owner had been trying to sell her and we were terrified of arriving to find that she had vanished - along with the chance to save her. Thankfully she was still there and her owner handed her over without argument."

The rescue team described Melay as "frightened and bewildered". The key to the padlock that had kept her chained to the porch in the family hut could not be found and she had to undergo her long journey to the rescue centre in Ketapang with the chain around her neck. It has left deep marks on her neck when it was finally cut off after her rescue.

She was taken first by boat down the Sambas River before being taken by road for the four hour drive to Pontianak from where she was flown to Ketapang.

Dr Sanchez said that after an initial health check, Melay is severely underweight and malnourished. The good news is that despite a lifetime eating unsuitable food, her teeth are still in fairly good condition.

Further test are planned but for the time being she is being left to adjust to her new surroundings and is already showing a "healthy interest in food and eagerly trying all kinds of fruits for the first time".

In time, after so many years without socialisation, she will be introduced to some of her new neighbours in the sanctuary.

IAR's Alan Knight said: "Sadly Melay will not be the last orangutan we are called upon to rescue. Our team has already told me of others in captivity that are desperately in need of our help. But we're determined not to let them down."

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