The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Rehabilitation and Reintroduction Program, for displaced or orphaned orangutans rescued from areas of habitat loss, have released its 131st Orangutan.
He (Omega) was released on the 20th April 2014 and was a ‘little bit confused upon being released into his natural habitat. He then found a corn cob in his travel cage and started enjoying it, before he finally spotted Sella and decided to hangout with her’, reported Goingback2Dforest.
Over 12 orangutans were released at Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest as part of a two day event, with Omega being one of the last groups to be released. ‘Two release points had been prepared for a total 12 orangutans; four individuals were planned to be released in the forest of Monnu, the next 8 were to be released 600m down the Joloi River’, continued Goingback2Dforest.
Orangutans are endangered because their forests are being destroyed, especially by the thriving trend of oil palm plantations. They also reproduce very slowly with a female only giving birth every 6 – 7 years in the wild. Not only this, but many orangutans are being hunted for meat, to sell as pets and ornamentation. BOSF (the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation) is a non-profit organization which has been established in response to this. They have a vision which is to establish the realization of Bornean orangutan conservation in its habitat with the community’s participation.
The project has been a huge success and the BOS Foundation has rescued hundreds of orangutans in East Kalimantan and currently cares for and supports over 200 orangutans at Samboja Lestari. ‘Now we have 131 released orangutans in Batikap so you can imagine that our monitoring team is quite busy. Still we will do our best to make sure all individuals are in good shape and thriving in their forest home’, said a representative.
The East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Samboja Lestari was the first orangutan reintroduction program established by the BOS Foundation in 1991, specifically to provide care and rehabilitation for displaced or orphaned orangutans rescued from areas of habitat loss. Formally known as Wanariset, the project was relocated in 2006, due to insufficient space and was renamed Samboja Lestari. ‘Our main activities at Samboja Lestari include orangutan rescue, translocation of orangutans from areas of conflict to areas of secure and protected habitat, the provision of welfare and healthcare, rehabilitation, reintroduction and forest restoration activities’, stated their report.
The BOS Foundation coordinates its activities with the Ministry of Forestry, and the foundation is supported by the network of the BOS Foundation’s partner organizations around the world. Goingback2Dforest highlighted that, ‘it is the largest orangutan rescue and rehabilitation organization in the world, taking care of more than 850 orangutans (as of December 2011) with the support of 420 highly dedicated staff with a deep affection towards wild animals and their habitat, as well as experts in biodiversity, ecology, forest rehabilitation, agroforestry, community empowerment, education, and orangutan health care’.
Two reintroduction programs are managed by the BOS Foundation; Nyaru Menteng in Central Kalimantan and Samboja Lestari in East Kalimantan. ‘Both of these programs focus on rehabilitation and reintroduction activities in line with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) guidelines and criteria’, said their report. ‘In all areas of our work we engage with local communities and schools on community development activities and outreach conservation education’, continued a representative.
Orangutans are often forced to range long distances in search of food because they have been displaced from areas of natural habitat, due to human development activities causing widespread habitat loss. They often wander into oil palm plantations or community gardens as they simply have no other alternative; and this unfortunately leads to the death of this incredible primate. ‘Together with East Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority (BKSDA), we rescue orangutans from these situations and if healthy, can immediately release them to areas of safe, secure natural habitat. This practice is commonly known as translocation. In situations where an orangutan has suffered injury or illness, we provide dedicated healthcare to ensure their recovery for future translocation or later reintroduction’, said Goingback2Dforest
It is well known that orangutan may live up to 45-50 years old and live in semi-solitaire environment. They do not form groups as other great apes do. They socialize with other individuals only during mating season which lasts for 2-3 weeks and - for adult females-during child care period. Orangutans give birth to only one child per delivery, after 5-8 months of pregnancy. ‘When an infant orangutan is taken away from its mother, he or she loses a whole life time of early learning. Therefore, the purpose of rehabilitation is to equip orphaned orangutans with the skills they need to survive once they are old enough to be reintroduced to the forest’, continued Goingback2Dforest.
The project has a set guideline for rehabilitation and reintroduction. Firstly, healthcare and quarantine are the most important. Firstly, ‘each orangutan arriving at one of our reintroduction programs goes through routine quarantine procedures and health checks (physical and psychological). This is very important as many rescued orangutans have been exposed to human diseases which they would not normally encounter in the wild’, highlighted a BOSF statement.
The second stage is that of rehabilitation. ‘The majority of the orangutans who enter our facilities are still very young, so in need of orangutan-peer interaction and daily lessons on forest survival’, said a representative. BOSF have stated that during rehabilitation, orangutans are taught and encouraged to build nests, select appropriate natural foods and recognise natural predators. This process is called ‘Baby School’ and progresses through different stages of ‘Forest School’. Here they spend days in the forest learning new skills. The skills achieved by each individual are then assessed before they progress through each stage. Orangutans then progress to a pre-release island where they accostum themselves to live in an environment similar to their natural habitat. This is a halfway forest before their final rehabilitation. ‘Dependent on the age and existing skills each orangutan has, rehabilitation can take up to 7 years,’ highlight BOSF.
The final stage of the project is the release stage. ‘The day before the first orangutans are due to arrive for release, the team conduct a simulation at camp to test equipment and final practice for the transport cage carriers,’ mentioned a team leader from BOSF. They are then released into the wild environment which continues to prove to be a huge success. ‘Batikap makes a beautiful new home for the released orangutans,’ said Ike Naya S, a member on the project.
Once in their new home the team then observe Orangutan in the wild environment. ‘The monitoring team in Batikap are committed to observing and ensuring the well-being of the orangutans’ highlighted Ike Naya S. In fact, the monitoring team have seen some amazing discoveries by watching the release orangutan. ‘No one has ever seen wild orangutans swimming – they stay out of the water because of the risk of crocodile attack and because they are not adapted for swimming – they sink very easily. Thus it was a great surprise when orangutans on the islands at Nyaru Menteng started entering the river and experimenting with different swimming techniques’, concluded Ike Naya S.
Very sadly some orangutans can never be returned to the wild due to illness or injury. ‘Our dedicated team continues to provide welfare and healthcare to these individuals, which they will need for the rest of their lives. An orangutan can live for 50 years in captivity and we will ensure that we provide them with the highest level of long-term care and sanctuary’, reported a BOSF spokesman.
The project is an incredible testament to the dedication of the local staff and community. This is a very important program especially when the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources believe that in one or two decades, orangutans will face extinction. ‘This will likely happen should there be no serious effort taken into account in avoiding it’, highlighted Dr. Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, in her book Di Ambang Kepunahan (In the Face of Extinction).
With this in mind, this project is summed up nicely by BOSF who conclude that, ‘our overriding goal is to reintroduce orangutans back to secure natural habitat to establish new viable long-term populations to bolster conservation of the species in the wild’.