Pony before [inset] and after. Photos courtesy of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
Meet Pony. She is an orangutan from a small village in Borneo, where they cut down the rain forest to render the palm oil that gets sold abroad and made into lip salve, ice cream, chocolates, and cheese crackers.
Vice: So tell us about Pony.
Michelle Desilets [Director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation]: Pony is an orangutan from a prostitute village in Borneo. We found her chained to a wall, lying on a mattress. She had been shaved all over her body.
I want to cry.
If a man walked near her, she would turn herself around, present herself, and start gyrating and going through the motions. She was being used as a sex slave. She was probably about six or seven years old when we rescued her, but she had been held captive by a madam for a long time. The madam refused to give up the animal because everyone loved Pony and she was a big part of their income. They also thought Pony was lucky, as she would pick winning lottery numbers.
Did the clients realize that they were in fact getting an orangutan?
Oh yeah, they would come in especially for it. You could choose a human if you preferred, but it was a novelty for many of the men to have sex with an orangutan. They shaved her every other day, which meant that her skin had all these pimples and was very irritated. The mosquitoes would get to her very badly and the bites would become septic and be very infected, as she would scratch them constantly. They would put rings and necklaces on her. She was absolutely hideous to look at.
How did you get her away from there?
It took us over a year to rescue her, because every time we went in with forest police and local officers we would be overpowered by the villagers, who simply would not give her up. They would threaten us with guns and knives with poison on them. In the end it took 35 policemen armed with AK-47s and other weaponry going in there and demanding that they hand over Pony. It was filmed by a local television crew and in the background of the film when we are unchaining Pony you can hear the madam crying hysterically, screaming, “They are taking my baby, you can’t do this!” There is no law enforcement in Indonesia so these people didn’t face any sentence or anything for what they had done.
INTERVIEWED BY JACK ADAMS