HELEN AND SANTA FIND FREEDOM IN THE FOREST IN 2014
Last week we reported four orangutans rescued from devastated rainforests in Western Borneo have been returned to freedom thanks to a team from International Animal Rescue (IAR) in Indonesia. The orangutans had all been rescued by IAR’s team and spent time at IAR’s orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sungai Awan, Ketapang, Western Borneo. The orangutans were released in the area of Gunung Tarak, which is a large protected forest five hours' drive from IAR’s orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre in Ketapang.
You can read about Ael and Sukmas' release to the forest here.
Below are the stories of orangutans Helen and Santa who were released with Ael and Sukma.
Orangutan Helen's dramatic rescue
Helen came to the centre in 2009 after being rescued from an oil palm plantation, Limpah Sejahtera. She was just two years old and was severely beaten by the loggers who had killed her mother. She was tied by her wrists and ankles to a stick, just barely alive.
Fortunately for Helen, the area was being patrolled by Forestry police who called International Animal Rescue. The team found her deeply traumatised, both mentally and physically and needed emergency care. She was quickly sedated and taken back to IAR's centre where her infected wounds were cleaned up and treated with antibiotics. Helen was also treated for severe dehydration.
Some time after rescue she remained very wild, so it was decided to release her in Gunung Tarak. However she had to be returned to the rescue centre because she was still very young and after close monitoring was found to be struggling in the forest. She was put back into the rehabilitation programme and while she was at IAR’s new site at Sungai Awan she spent every day in the large outdoor forest enclosure where her behaviour was evaluated.
She has now been fitted with a transmitter and is being followed by the team in Gunung Tarak who are monitoring her closely and collecting data on her.
Christmas day orangutan rescue - Santa!
The fourth release was of a 20 year old, large adult male who was named Santa after he was rescued on Christmas Day. He had only been at the centre for a week after being rescued from the area Tanjung Baik Budi, the same place as Sukma, about thirty kilometres from Ketapang. IAR’s team received a phone call from the Agency for Natural Resources Conservation (BKSDA) to say a large male orangutan needed to be relocated from a rambutan plantation close to the village. This is the fifth rescue IAR’s team has carried out in the area because the forest is being cleared and the wild orangutans are being pushed closer and closer to the village. The local people are very helpful and have always contacted BKSDA to report any orangutan they see. They also stayed with Santa until the rescue team arrived so no time was wasted searching for him. He was darted on the first attempt by IAR’s skilful vet Syifa which also helped to make the rescue quick and stress-free.
Santa, after his rescue
Santa being weighed after his rescue on Christmas Day
Helen and Santa are released back to the forest
After their medical checks, Helen and Santa were transferred to the transportation cages and put onto the trucks for the treacherous five hour journey to Gunung Tarak. Nineteen of the local village men helped to carry the heavy cages on the three hour trek to the release site. Some of them remembered Helen from her first release.
The first release was Santa who, as soon as his cage was opened, ran to a tree and immediately climbed to the top and disappeared out of sight.
The group hung back and waited for the rain to clear before releasing Helen. As she was being monitored they wanted to make the tracking as straightforward as possible. Again as soon as she was free of her cage she went straight up the closest tree, explored her new surroundings and met up with Ael and Sukma. She stayed with them for the rest of the afternoon before making a nest and settling down for her first night back in the forest.
Helen joined Sukma and Ael in the tree before nesting down for the night