Monti and Anggun are returned to freedom in the Bornean rainforest!
We have successfully rehabilitated and released a foster mother and baby orangutan back into the wild. Adult female Monti and infant Anggun were released in the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR) with three other rehabilitated orangutans named Merah, Ujang and Utat. Our team carried out the operation on 11 February alongside the Centre for Natural Resources Conservation of West Kalimantan (BKSDA.)
All the orangutans had been rescued from captivity. Before being released, they went through a lengthy period of rehabilitation at our centre in Ketapang, West Borneo to restore their natural behaviour so that they will be able to survive back in the forest. In the wild orangutans live with their mothers until they are between 6-8 years old. During this period of care, the infants learn various skills such as climbing, foraging for food and making nests. Baby orangutans that are separated from their mothers, usually by human beings, are deprived of the opportunity to learn those skills.
Monti, who is now 12 years old, was rescued from Sungai Awan village in Ketapang, West Borneo in 2009, while Anggun, now three, was rescued in Sungai Melayu in Ketapang in 2018. When baby Anggun arrived at the centre, our animal management team immediately set about finding a suitable foster mother for her.
Monti was chosen because she had been undergoing rehabilitation for close to 10 years and she had mastered all the necessary skills to survive in her natural habitat.
It was hoped that Monti would teach Anggun these skills and would also protect and nurture her. The strategy was highly successful. Monti became increasingly maternal and Anggun grew more confident at learning new things.
Karmele L Sanchez, Programme Director of IAR Indonesia said: "This proves that, even when orangutans like Monti lose their mothers at a very young age, they are still able to be good mothers, not just with their own children, but also with other baby orangutans.”
We are currently caring for more than 90 individual orangutans undergoing rehabilitation which can take 7-8 years, depending on the ability of each individual. The process is a lengthy and costly one.
The long journey to the release point in the heart of the TNBBBR area takes three days: a road trip over sometimes rough terrain of more than 700 kilometres is followed by an hour-long boat ride and a 9 kilometre walk.
In 2016, we established a monitoring station from which a team is deployed to monitor the behaviour and the adaptation of orangutans to their new environment.
The team, consisting of villagers from around the TNBBBR area, record the behaviour of the orangutans every two minutes from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep again every day. This monitoring process lasts between one and two years.
"We can’t succeed in this programme without the participation and involvement of residents. We are very proud to be able to work with the men and women in the villages supporting the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park," said Sanchez.
The Head of the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, Agung Nugroho said: “The monitoring team will work every day for approximately 1-2 years to ensure that every released orangutan can adapt to its new habitat. Hopefully, the orangutans released in the TNBBBR area will be able to form a new population and help maintain the existence of the species.”
Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive, said: “We couldn’t be more excited and proud to see these two orangutans return to freedom in the forest. Monti has proved to be the perfect foster mother for Anggun and they have developed a very close bond. It is testimony to the excellence of our rehabilitation programme that the pair are now well-equipped to fend for themselves in the wild and I’m sure reports from the monitoring team in the weeks and months ahead will confirm that.”