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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

We have rescued and translocated a mother orangutan and her baby

A mother and baby orangutan have been rescued and relocated after fire destroyed their forest home in West Borneo. They are the first orangutans to be rescued in the Ketapang area of West Borneo this year. Data gathered by our Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) has shown that the number of human-orangutan conflicts in the area has been on the rise since last summer, owing to habitat loss through forest fires.

A rescue team made up of the Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) of the Centre for the Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA Kalbar) and our staff stepped in after the pair were discovered in residential gardens in Tanjung Pura Village in Ketapang District (13/01/20.)

Reports of the existence of the mother and baby orangutan, who have been named Qia and Mama Qia, were sent to our Orangutan Protection Unit (OPU) on 4 January. The OPU attempted to drive the orangutans out of the gardens and back into the forest which is the first stage in our conflict mitigation strategy.

However, on 8 January the OPU patrol team encountered the orangutans back in the same location. After conducting a site survey, our team discovered that the forests in the area had been fragmented by fires and were no longer connected to any larger forest. As a result, our rescue team and members of the BKSDA decided to carry out a rescue operation and move the orangutans to a safer and more suitable location.

Our team estimated that the adult orangutan was more than 10 years old and her baby was aged about two months. After conducting a series of medical tests, our vet confirmed that both orangutans were in good health. "The two orangutans were in good condition and didn’t need any further treatment and so we agreed with BKSDA Kalbar to translocate them directly into the forests of Sentap Kancang which is only about 5km away,” said Argitoe Ranting, Field Manager of IAR Indonesia.

The forest covers an area of more than 40,000 hectares and was chosen not only because of its size but also because it has a plentiful supply of food and the density of the existing orangutan population is quite low. The forest itself isn’t accessible to vehicles and so a team that included members of the BKSDA’s WRU carried the transport crate to the release site.

Although the rescue and release operation was carried out successfully, translocation is not a solution that addresses the root of the problem which is the damage being done to the forest.

Threats to the survival of orangutan populations have increased greatly since fire hit most major regions of Ketapang. The burning forests left many orangutans without food and shelter, causing them to stray into villages and gardens and increasing the number of encounters and conflicts with humans.

Sadtata Noor Adirahmanta, Head of the BKSDA West Kalimantan, said: "A great deal of conservation work has been carried out in recent years, both by the government and its partners. However, the challenges and problems are increasing and in response further action needs to be taken. The roots of the problem stem from conflict arising from the fact that not enough attention has been paid to the conservation of wild plants and animals.”

Karmele L Sanchez, Director of IAR Indonesia, added: “Conflict arises because orangutans are losing their forest habitat. They go elsewhere in search of food because they have no choice. We are very concerned at seeing how these orangutans are trying to survive when their habitat is being destroyed. We can only hope that human beings will realise that, without forests, it won’t only be orangutans that can’t survive - because the human species will suffer the same fate."

Alan Knight OBE, IAR Chief Executive, commented: “After the horrific events of 2015 in Indonesia, it is shattering to see fires once again destroying land and forest habitats. We are relieved at the rescue and translocation of this precious mother and baby by our team in Indonesia and the West Kalimantan BKSDA. However, action needs to be taken right now to resolve the underlying problem if the orangutan species as a whole is to be saved from extinction.