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Orang-utan Catches Rope and Swims to Save Her Baby

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Amazing moment an orang-utan caught a rope thrown by humans and swam across flooded river to save her baby

By Richard Shears
19 March 2009

All mothers know there is no limit to what they will do to protect their children.

But this mother orang-utan proved that the selfless sentiment extends to the animal kingdom also.

These astonishing pictures from the World Wildlife Fund capture the moment the terrified mother caught a rope thrown to her by humans and swam across a flooded river to bring her baby to safety.

Easy does it: The mother orang-utan, her baby clinging to her chest, catches the rope thrown to her by wildlife officials

Clinging to the tree, she clutches the rope as her baby clings to her

It is a long-held belief that the giant apes are petrified of water. But the mother did not appear to give her leap into the swollen river a second thought.

The amazing pictures were taken by local officials of the WWF on the Malaysian island of Borneo.

Villagers had reported that the mother and her baby were stranded in a tree when a river flooded on the north east tip of the island.

Some reports claimed they had been trapped there for several days.

The Sabah Wildlife Department, which is linked to WWF, sent a team to the area and set up a rope bridge so they could get close to the hungry mother and baby.

But what next? How

Finally she takes the plunge, dog-paddling through the water as she ferried her baby to safety

Then the rangers came up with the 'impossible idea' of throwing the mother a rope to cling on to so she could swim to the nearest river bank, said an official.

Anything was worth a try.

So a rope was tossed to the mother - and unbelievably she reached out and grabbed it.

Then in a scene that no-one could have ever imagined, she climbed down the tree, with the baby on her back, and slipped into the water.

Clinging to the rope, and ensuring the baby's head was above the water, she dog-paddled towards the river bank and scrambled up.

'We were able to give her some food, bananas and other fruit, before she and the baby disappeared into the jungle,' said an official.

'It's always been thought that orang-utans hate water but we now know that if they're desperate, especially if they have a baby whose life depends on them, they'll take any kind of risk.'

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