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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Our team in Indonesia move a mother and baby orangutan out of danger

Our team in Indonesia has moved a mother and infant orangutan to safety after they went in search of food in a village in West Borneo. The pair were in danger of coming into conflict with local farmers after they were seen on a plantation in the village of Tempurukan, in the district of Ketapang, West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo.)

According to local residents, individual orangutans had been visiting the plantation since 2013. When reports of sightings started coming in, a team from International Animal Rescue travelled to the village and talked to the residents about conflict mitigation and ways to protect their crops from wild orangutans.

The team learned that visits from orangutans had increased as more land was cleared and particularly since the devastating fires in 2015. Fires have left the forest fragmented, isolating individual orangutans in areas where there isn’t enough food to sustain them.

Our Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) commissioned a study into wild orangutans and the condition of the land and the forest around Tempur and Kalibaru village. “The results of OPU’s study showed that orangutans in the area were trying to survive in fragmented and isolated pockets of forest. The distance between the areas of forest was too great for the orangutans to travel between them and there was too much human activity in the area for the orangutans to live safely,” said Catur, Manager of our Orangutan Protection Unit in Indonesia. “There was very little food available and so there was a high risk that the orangutans would end up looking for food on people’s farmland and in their gardens,” he added.

To prevent human-orangutan conflict, ourselves and the local Centre for Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) agreed to translocate the mother and infant orangutan to a safer area. In the meantime, the Orangutan Protection Unit tried to keep an eye on the two orangutans, although they did lose track of them at one point which meant the translocation operation had to be postponed.

However, on 11 April the unit picked up the tracks of the mother and baby once more and the rescue team of our vets and keepers, as well as representatives of BKSDA  Kalbar, prepared to carry out the translocation the following day. They named the pair Mama Ris and Baby Riska.

In order to capture the mother and baby, team leader Argitoe had first to sedate the mother with a dart gun. Then, as soon as she had fallen safely into the net, the team moved fast to carry out a thorough medical examination of Mama Ris and Baby Riska.

Happily, the pair were both in good health and so were translocated directly to the protected forest of Sentap Kancang. As the terrain was challenging, a tractor was used to transport the orangutans to the release site.

Karmele Llano Sanchez, our Programme Director in Indonesia, said: “A few weeks ago we carried out an orangutan translocation in the area of Gunung Palung National Park. In many ways that case was very similar to this one. Degraded and fragmented forests make encounters between humans and people more frequent. This increases the risk of conflict between them. If there is conflict, sadly both people and orangutans will suffer losses.

“Regrettably this kind of translocation is only a temporary solution and does not prevent similar cases happening in future. The real solution is to look at how we and all citizens and all stakeholders, including industries and companies, can work together to stop deforestation and land degradation. Our hope is that people and orangutans can live side by side without harming each other,” she concluded.

The Head of BKSDA Kalbar, Sadtata Noor, stated that this type of case is not only the responsibility of the forestry sector and its partners who handle protected wildlife. “The increasing number of conflicts between wildlife and humans today should be enough to make us all more aware,” he said. “It's a matter for all sectors, particularly those who make commercial use of the land. Massive damage has been done to wildlife habitats. It is time we tackle the root of the problem, rather than solve each conflict as it arises.”