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Extremely Rare Albino Orangutan Found in Indonesia

The foundation nursing the primate back to health says they have never taken care of an albino orangutan and cannot find others like it in the wild.

A rare albino orangutan was rescued earlier this month from a village in Indonesia where it was kept in a cage.

The five-year-old orangutan, which was rescued from the Kapuas Hulu district in Borneo, has made quite a comeback, gaining up to 10 pounds in a couple of weeks.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is caring for the primate, according to the Telegraph. Orangutans are critically endangered, meaning they are one step away from extinction, and the foundation cares for close to 500 of them. The foundation reported that it had never cared for an albino orangutan at the rehabilitation center in its 25-year history.

The foundation held an international campaign asking for name suggestions from around the world. Ultimately it chose “Alba,” meaning “white” in Latin and “dawn” in Spanish.

"Hopefully a new dawn will come for these precious animals," the group said in a statement reported by the Jakarta Post.

Bornean orangutans’ long hair is usually an orangish-brown color, and they are known to be highly intelligent. Albino orangutans are extremely rare, though there have been other instances of albino primates, like Snowflake the albino gorilla and a spider monkey in Honduras.

The Jakarta Post reports that the foundation is closely studying albinism in apes to determine how to best help Alba. They have not been able to find any other examples of the genetic condition in orangutans, and albinism can affect sensory nerves and organs like the eyes. Albinism can occur more frequently in primates and other vertebrate species because of environmental stress and inbreeding in isolated populations, according to a study published in SciELO Argentina.

The IUCN estimates that around 104,000 orangutans live on Borneo, a number that is much lower than the estimated 288,000 orangutans on the island in 1973. The IUCN projects that orangutan numbers will continue to shrink to 47,000 by the year 2025, due to hunting and deforestation contributing to habitat loss.