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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Primate diaries: Putting our primates back into the wild

Taken from IAR's blog, Primate Diaries:

Vet Sharmini Julita Paramasivam reports on another success story from our Primate Rescue Centre...

The 6 macaques and 2 slow lorises begin their journey homeYayasan IAR Indonesia (YIARI) functions to rescue, rehabilitate and release to the wild two of the most traded primate species in Indonesian pet markets which are slow lorises and macaques. Rehabilitation means that we work hard to remind these animals that they are wild, since usually most spend their lives as pets, away from their own species, consuming human food and performing behaviour that is not normal in the wild. Rehabilitation involves a specific diet and feeding pattern that will make them ‘work’ for their food, something that they must learn in order to survive in the wild. For macaques, socialization with other individuals when they are ready is the next step to form social groups that they will live with in the wild. Once they form a solid group and are showing wild behaviours, the next step is to release them into the wild.

The journey from Java to Sumatra took 24 long hoursOn the 29 May 2012, a release operation involving 6 pig-tailed macaques and 2 slow lorises was carried out on the island of Lampung in Sumatra. The macaques consisted of 5 individuals in a group led by the dominant male named Rambo for his size and soft heart and an individual dominant male called Bendot. It was a good feeling bringing these animals, indigenous to Sumatra, back to where they belong, seeing that they were brought to the Javan island illegally. After a long 24 hour journey from our centre in Ciapus, Java, all the individuals who were in good health although restless after the long journey, were placed in a habituation cage which is a cage made in the forest to allow acclimatization to the wild conditions.

Pig-tailed macaques ready for releaseAfter 2 days of habituation, it was time for them to have their first taste of freedom. Rambo’s group, consisting of one adult female (Nonong), 2 juvenile females (Julia and Virgo) and a young male (James), were released back into the wild when we cut the net and set them free. It was fantastic to see all the young ones following their leader. When James couldn’t find his way out of the cage and cried for help, the group rushed to his aid and made sure that no member was left behind. Next it was Bendot, who we were afraid might be aggressive, but instead he demonstrated how much the animals appreciate our work when he stepped out of the cage and walked away in complete peace. The team will continue monitoring the macaques to ensure they are doing well in the wild.

The macaques explore their new homeThe two Sumatran lorises were placed in our newly designed open top habituation cage that provides a proper natural environment exposure before returning to the wild. They were quick to settle in and started exploring the cage and environment very quickly. Both lorises are fitted with a radiocollar that allows for monitoring after being released. This is part of YIARI’s post-release loris monitoring programme - the first ever to be done in Indonesia to make sure that individuals survive and to understand the way lorises live in the wild to help improve the rehabilitation process at the centre. After a few weeks of habituation time in the cage, they will be released and a team will follow them every night to make sure they are well.

All in all, it was a great success with all the released animals looking healthy and active in the wild. Importance is placed on releasing these animals as it brings great benefits such as increasing the long term conservation prospects of these species; it also acts as a good awareness strategy to teach the public not to keep wild animals as pets and promotes good animal welfare by allowing the animal to live in its natural environment. Ironically, buying wild animals out of pity to ‘save’ them from the horrible life in the markets is NOT a solution. This is because one empty cage means a replacement being caught from the wild. YIARI works hard to spread the message that wild animals belong in the wild and should not be kept as pets, no matter what the circumstances.