A GIANT orangutan that was released into the wild in Borneo with help from a Brockenhurst-based charity had to be recaptured after it tried to steal a motorbike.
Tiger had been rescued as a baby after he was found abandoned on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. He was cared for at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sabah.
When he became a teenager it was decided that it was best for him to be let go in the Kabili forest surrounding the clinic in the hope he would join up with a gang of other orangutans.
But a few weeks after he was set free a terrified plantation owner ran the centre asking them to come and get Tiger as he had been found trying to make off on a worker’s motorbike.
Sue Sheward, who founded the Brockenhurst-based Orangutan Appeal UK, revealed: “Orangutans are nearly as intelligent as humans, they share 96% of our genes. They will watch you closely and copy you perfectly.
“At some stage Tiger had obviously seen someone riding a motorbike and decided he could do the same! I wouldn’t have been surprised if he could have actually driven it off.
“The trouble is that he had become very used to being around humans. But he was also by now a very, very large, frightening looking orangutan.
“We just couldn’t leave him to wander around villages with the risk that he might accidentally hurt someone, or that somebody could shoot him because they were scared of him.”
Tiger was taken back to the centre where he was treated for a chest infection. This year it was decided to give it “one last go” at trying to set him free.
He was flown by helicopter to a remote part of Tabin where he is unlikely to come into any human contact.
Sue (73), who took part in the operation, said: “It was a very emotional moment. “He gave a last glance over his shoulder then just went off. They were grown men stood around with tears in their eyes.
“He has been with us since we rescued him as an orphan so he is very much loved but we knew for him to have the best chance of survival he had to be let go.”
Tiger has been sited looking healthy and happy and making “long calls” across the forest looking for a mate.