Magnificent male orangutan rescued and relocated by IAR's team in Indonesia
IAR’s team in Indonesia has rescued a magnificent male orangutan from the outskirts of a village and translocated him to a protected forest far from human habitation.
IAR’s Human-Orangutan Conflict Response Team had received reports that an orangutan had been sighted close to the village of Tempurkan.
The landscape surrounding the village consists of coconut trees but the land is now being burned to clear the way for rice fields. This has increased the risk of conflicts between local people and orangutans, which are being isolated within the shrinking pockets of remaining forest.
After an initial visit to the village in which the orangutan could not be found, the team returned to the area early the following morning to find the community gathered at the edge of the tree line. Expecting to find a female orangutan or an infant, they were stunned to find a fully flanged, dominant male relaxing in his nest.A'ul was up a tree when the team spotted him.
Evacuation plans were discussed with the officers of the Forestry Department (BKSDA) and village representatives and phone calls made to organise a cage large enough to contain the huge animal. Sifya, IAR’s ‘Rapid Response’ vet was brought in on the back of a scooter to supply the team with the tranquilliser gun and carefully measured medication. After a long struggle trying to corner the male long enough to provide a clear shot, Argitoe, IAR’s Field Manager, was able to tranquillise the male up in the tree canopy. A large net was placed below the branches as the team attempted to cut down the tree - a difficult process as the falling tree kept getting snagged amongst the surrounding vegetation. Eventually one of the team members had to climb into the tree and dislodge the orangutan and he was caught unharmed in the net.
The ape was immediately put into the transport cage and taken to the quarantine facilities at the IAR rehabilitation centre in Sungai Awan. It took a small army of people to lift the 68 kilogram male into one of the quarantine cages.
The large flanged male was named “Aul” by the team. The priority now was to find a suitable translocation site for him as soon as possible to minimise his time in captivity. The following week the team identified and surveyed a suitable location, gathered support from the local government and local villagers and prepared Aul for the move.
Before setting off Aul was sedated, a battery of health checks was carried out and an ID chip was inserted. Then the convoy of four vehicles transporting BKSDA officials, keepers and veterinary staff headed out to the 32,000 hectares of protected forest of Gunung Tarak, which was to be Aul’s new home.
The trip took five hours, often over treacherous and bumpy roads and at some points no roads at all, just dirt and makeshift tracks. Fortunately, during the arduous trip Aul was a model passenger, only vocalising for food and liquids. Once the convoy reached the village of Pangkalan Jihing, where the head of the village and local volunteers ready to assist with transport were waiting, the team quickly found a shaded place to park Aul’s cage and promptly began discussing the strategy for carrying Aul deep into the jungle.
At 09:00 an army of 27 people began their walk into the forest. Even though it looked an impossible task to achieve – walking hours carrying more than 100 kilograms in weight through dense jungle and crossing flowing rivers – everyone was optimistic and in good spirits. Songs were sung, stories were swapped and laughter filled the jungle air. Finally, after four demanding hours, the release spot was reached. After strategically positioning the cage to release Aul a quick briefing was given and then the cage door was opened. Everyone stood with baited breath waiting to see what Aul would do. The silence was deafening. Aul sprang out of his cage and scaled the nearest tree to survey his new landscape. Then he swiftly disappeared into the jungle with our monitoring team hot on his trail.
Cheering and clapping rang out in the forest as everyone celebrated the happy outcome to Aul’s story.
IAR CEO Alan Knight commented: “The entire translocation process took a total of 17 hours but it was well worth it to provide Aul with a safe new home in the forest. Without our intervention it is likely that he would either have died of starvation or been attacked, even killed, for trying to find food among the villagers’ crops.
“This is a very happy outcome for all concerned. It is a great relief to have been able to save the life of such a magnificent Great Ape and secure his freedom and his future.”