By Tom Gillespie @TomGillespie1

A BRITISH wildlife photographer has documented the rescue and release of endangered orangutans

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Freedom at last: An orangutan allows its rescuers to inspect its body

Craig Jones, from Staffordshire, embedded with Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in February.

Deforestation in Gunung Leuser National Park means orangutans are forced out of their natural home

Following the team on the front line, Craig’s images provide a unique insight into the daily struggle conservationists face in their attempts to save the endangered species. 

Saving lives: The Sumatra's Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit poses for a photo

In one attempted rescue attempt, young female orangutan Aruna, believed to be 6-years-old, was found slumped on the floor in a tiny cage where she was kept as a pet.

Desperation is etched on the apes face as it is rescued

The team gained access to the courtyard with the help of local forest police, but their rescue mission ended after a tense confrontation with the animal's illegal owner.

Writing on his blog, he said: "Aruna was banging her body into the cage, perhaps excited there were new people in the yard.

Look of innocence: A mother and her baby had to be rescued after becoming trapped in a part of fragmented forest

“I’d like to think for those brief moments she came alive.

“Then the tone and tempo changed and the man was standing in front of me talking loudly in Indonesian and waving his arm with a pointed finger.

“I ignored him and carried on taking images of the young female. Then I heard ‘Craig, we have to go, he wants us to leave.’

A male begins to scale a tree after being released back into the Gunung Leuser National Park

“I was puzzled and said very little. Once back in the car I was told the police got scared.

“The man holding the orangutan told them he was an ex-Aceh rebel and was part of the mafia in that area, and that if the orangutan was taken we would all disappear.”

Luckily, Aruna was rescued two weeks later.

Almost home: The Response Unit carry out routine checks on a rescued animal

He continued: “They went back with more powerful police, they went with the national police force and there was no intimidation.

“The forest police feared for their families.”

Aruna is now being kept in quarantine at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project in the North Sumatra capital Medan.

Illegal forest fragmentation is rife on the remote Indonesian island, so orangutans can end up stranded in cut-off areas.

The mother orangutan has been rescued from a fragmented part of the forest and moved to a safe area

Shortly after the Aruna rescue attempt, Craig and HOCRU were called to rescue a mother and baby in an isolated patch of the national park.

Craig said: “They were trapped, and the trees around them were gone.

“People often don’t realise that in the wild orangutans spend most of their time up trees so they aren’t attacked by predators.

“Therefore forest fragmentation can leave them isolated.”

Need a tooth brush? Part of the forest have been run over by human - putting the apes at risk

After they were found, the mother and her young were tranquillised and caught in a large net.

A mother orangutan is caught in a large net after being tranquillised and is ready for relocation

Health checks were carried out and the orangutans were released in a safer part of the Gunung Leuser National Park.

Four days later HOCRU, based in the capital Medan, were called out to the province of Aceh, where a male orangutan was trapped in-land near a palm oil plantation.

The adorable baby orangutan was at risk to humans encroaching on the forest

Craig said: “The male had come into an area where it was in conflict with humans, who were quite scared by its presence.

Prepared and ready: Members of HOCRU ready their tranquilliser guns

“This can happen, so a team needs to go in and take the animal to a more suitable place.

Let me out: Aruna was found languishing in squalid conditions

“In this instance the male was somewhere where people were farming, and the people their feared for their own safety.”

Miserable: Her condition shocked Craig Jones

HOCRU is part of the Orangutan Information Centre, an NGO staffed by Indonesian university graduates.

The rescue team returned with police after Aruna's owner made threats on their lives

The organisation work on the frontline to save the critically endangered Sumatran orangutans from life-threatening situations.

Together with local communities they have planted more than one million trees to restore the animal's habitat in the Gunung Leuser National Park.