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PHUKET: Khao Phra Thaeo Non Hunting Zone officers discovered a missing 13-year-old orangutan Saturday evening after she disappeared from the Phuket Zoo ahead of a police raid on Friday.

“Milo was found in a healthy condition,” Edwin Weik, the founder and director of Wildlife Friends of Thailand (WFFT), told the Phuket Gazette.

“I do not believe that she went missing in the forest since Thursday night. I believe that there is something behind all of this. After this news of a missing orangutan was spread, Milo was suddenly found in the jungle.”

The orangutan, which was trapped in a cage after allegedly being ‘freed’ into the jungle, appeared to have been fed since her disappearance (story here).

“I went to her first thing Sunday morning and she was still stuck in the cage. The door was padlocked, no keys were found in the area. They eventually had to hammer open the lock at the Phang Nga Wildlife Nursery Station, which took a good 20 minutes,” said local animal-rights activist Vicki Kiely.

“The ranger who found her and another member of the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary should be hailed as local heroes,” said Ms Kiely. “They stayed up with her all night and brought her a big basket of fruits and vegetables. When I arrived, she was poking his belly and playing with him. Those two guys made her transition from the jungle to the Phang Nga Wildlife Nursery Station so much easier.”

The conspicuous resurfacing of the great ape will be one of many issues in which Mr Weik plans to table during a meeting with Deputy Director of Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) Adisorn Nuchdamrong. Additional topics to be discussed are the details on the exact fate of Milo, as well as a number of other orangutan in Thailand.

“There are still many other illegal orangutan being raised in Thailand. Some of those raising them are now afraid of the law; they are contacting us to take the orangutan for them,” Mr Weik said. “I will be talking with Mr Adisorn about what action the DNP can take with regards to these animals.”

Milo was taken to Phang Nga Wildlife Nursery Station before she is to be moved to the Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratcha Buri, which already houses a number of orangutan.

“I received a call this morning confirming that the veterinarian had been in to see Milo and that she is healthy,” Ms Kiely said.

“When she finally got out of the cage, we walked with her about 20 meters before she fell flat on her tummy,” she said. “Nonetheless, she is still overweight and will need to go through some rehabilitation.

The Phuket Zoo again declined to comment further on the issue. However, employees on Friday told officers that Milo had been released into the jungle.

“We will continue our investigation on exactly how Milo was abandoned in the forest,” confirmed Piyawat Sukhon, head of Khao Phra Thaeo Non Hunting Zone. “Tomorrow, I will go to the zoo with relevant officials and question staff about the details of her alleged disappearance.”

— Kongleaphy Keam