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First baby orangutan arrives at IAR's new Orangutan Rescue and Conservation Centre

Just days after the official opening of its new Orangutan Centre in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), the Indonesian arm of UK charity International Animal Rescue (IAR) has taken in its first orangutan. The baby orangutan was apparently found on the estate of palm company PT Kayong Agro Lestari by a local villager.

The PT Kayong Agro Lestari concession belongs to PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya (ANJ). Ironically, PT ANJ has been a member of the RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) since 2007.Tribun hiding in a box when our team found him

The estate borders the Gunung Palung National Park and the Sungai Putri landscape and is made up of fragmented remnants of natural forest with high levels of biodiversity, particularly orangutan populations and peat swamp forest.

After being alerted by the villager, a joint team from the Nature Conservancy Agency of the Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry (BKSDA Kalimantan Barat) in Ketapang and Yayasan IAR Indonesia rescued the baby orangutan in the morning of 16 February. He was immediately taken to the IAR facility to be examined by the medical team. He will first undergo a period in quarantine before starting his rehabilitation. According to the medical team, the baby orangutan is approximately one and a half years old and in good health, although appearing skinny with a tympanic stomach.

This baby has been named Tribun, or Tri for short, after The Tribun Pontianak, one of the leading print/electronic media in West Kalimantan, whose reporter had joined the Rescue Team to cover the story. 

Dr Rondang Siregar, an Orangutan Reintroduction Specialist and Scientific Advisor to IAR Indonesia,

Tribun emerging from his temporary sanctuarysaid, “Tribun’s behaviour is not wild. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of people and this indicates that he has been kept in captivity for some period of time. In fact it is possible that he was kept by workers of the plantation because the reports provided by local villagers indicate that they had seen this baby orangutan within the surroundings of the PT KAL staff shelter.” 

Dr Rondang continued “We need to make some further observations and carry out medical tests in order to evaluate Tribun’s health before he’s moved to the forest school and joins the rehabilitation process along with the other baby orangutans”. According to Dr Rondang the length of this process is quite variable and depends on the ability of the orangutan to gain the skills necessary to survive in the wild but normally it would take years. “Orangutans live with their mothers until the age of 5-7 years old and must learn all their survival skills from them. As Tribun no longer has his mother, who was probably killed when he was snatched from her, we will have to teach him the skills to survive in the wild before he can be released”.

This most recent rescue by IAR Indonesia follows another one about a year ago when the orangutan named Pelansi was rescued from a snare at the same plantation in Kuala Satong village (formerly named Pelansi village). Pelansi was subsequently released back into the wild by BKSDA and Yayasan IAR Indonesia. This latest baby orangutan marks the sixth orangutan rescued from PT KAL plantation area. 

“The rehabilitation of orangutans is very expensive. As a non-governmental organisation we need to look for funds from donations and individuals”, explains Karmele L Sanchez, Executive Director of IAR Indonesia, “and it is frustrating that these companies cause so much damage and are responsible for the displacement of so many orangutans, but have never taken responsibility for the damage that their business activities have caused to the environment. Currently, our centre in Western Borneo is already taking care of 57 orangutans. Alongside the lengthy process of rehabilitation we currently struggle to find suitable release sites where we can return all these orangutans to their natural habitat, as large areas of forest in the area have already been converted into oil palm plantations.”