IAR Indonesia starts the New Year with the successful rescue and translocation of a wild orangutan
IAR’s team in Indonesia has begun the New Year by rescuing a wild orangutan from a dwindling patch of forest and moving him to a safer and more spacious new home.
On 2 January the team in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, received reports from local villagers of an orangutan that had been spotted on the outskirts of some paddy-fields in Pematang Gadung: this is the village closest to the area where Pelangsi, the orangutan whose arm was amputated, was recently released.
The male orangutan had been living in a patch of forest at the junction of a canal and some farm-land. It seems that this resident orangutan of the forest of Pematang Gadung had been trapped in a small group of trees between the agricultural fields and a new canal that had recently been built. The small area of isolated forest, which belongs to the local community of Pematang Gadung, is in the process of being converted to paddy-fields. Over the past few months some of the forest had been burned to create more open space for agricultural use. With more trees gone, the area had come to the point where it could no longer support a fairly large orangutan. Because of their body structure, orangutans are not good swimmers, which left this male trapped between the river, a canal and the rice fields. He was unable to return to the larger portion of Pematang Gadung’s forest on his own. The search for food
had brought him down closer to the ground, where there was a lot of potential for human interaction and the risk of conflict. After some close encounters with people, it was clear that he needed help finding a new place to live where he could find enough food and also other orangutans.
As soon as word came in of the orangutan’s plight, the IAR Orangutan Rescue Unit Team (sponsored by The Orangutan Project), accompanied by a ranger from the Forestry Department of Ketapang (BKSDA Ketapang), was assembled and set out with plans to anaesthetise the orangutan and translocate him to a more suitable habitat. Even with all the equipment and expertise at hand, factors including timing and rain came into play, and they were unable to locate him on the first day. However, after an early start the next morning, the team found him still sleeping in a narrow strip of trees between the river and a rice field.
A member of the team darted him while he was still in a tree but, after the sedation took effect, he ended up in the shallow water near the river bank. The quick response of some team members brought him safely to solid ground. Samples of blood, faeces and hair were taken, he was microchipped and a quick general exam was done. The orangutan seemed to be in good health apart from a healed, superficial injury to one eye. He was placed in a cage temporarily and carried to an awaiting boat where he was given time to recover from the anaesthetic during the ride.
The team had chosen a piece of forest which surveys have already identified as a suitable orangutan release site. Once awake, the orangutan’s cage was opened and he was again able to climb into the trees, this time in a place with more fruit and fewer chances of encountering human beings.
IAR Chief Executive Alan Knight OBE said: “The bad news is that the orangutan was in this dire situation in the first place. The good news is that we’ve been able to rescue him and move him to safety.
“Without our team to save him, this lone orangutan would have been unlikely to survive. There wasn’t enough food in the area to sustain him and his small patch of forest was gradually being destroyed and replaced with agricultural land. He could have starved to death or come into serious conflict with farmers in the area and been hunted down and killed. Thankfully local villagers alerted us to his plight and we have moved him to a larger, safer area of forest – the best outcome we could hope for and a very uplifting start to the New Year!”