WHAT WE DO...
Every orangutan arriving at our center spends a period of time in quarantine and is tested for more than 40 diseases. Orangutans who are able to be rehabilitated spend years going through our school system learning the skills they need to survive in the wild. Where possible we will always strive to release an orangutan back to the wild.
There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of a free orangutan, high up in the trees of the lush Indonesian rainforest. For many orangutans that are released by IAR Indonesia, those first steps of freedom are the culmination of a journey that saw them undergo years of rehabilitation. The released orangutans thrive in these beautiful, biodiverse areas. With an abundance of fruit, trees and dense undergrowth, they have everything they need to be happy, healthy and most importantly free! Releasing an orangutan is a long and costly process. Everything from rescue, rehab and release is funded entirely by YOU.
We have always taken a pragmatic approach to conservation in Indonesia, understanding that we must work within the country’s existing landscape, and cultural, economic and political context. All existing orangutan habitat is to some extent being shaped by human activities, and in West Kalimantan the predominant land use is for agriculture, both for local smallholdings and larger industrial plantations, principally for the cultivation of oil palm. We are committed to protecting as much orangutan habitat as possible, when given the opportunity IAR will always buy more land to expand our centre and protect as much of our neighbouring forest as possible.
If orangutans are to survive, more forest land is needed so that they are able to move from one forest fragment to another. This will ensure breeding opportunities and genetic diversity. IAR Indonesia works with many partners to facilitate this. This involves exploring ways to connect High Conservation Value areas, trialling different natural and artificial corridors, and assessing how they affect orangutan movement patterns.
It is imperative that any conservation programmes are carried out in conjunction with education activities. IAR Indonesia started running education programmes in West Kalimantan as soon as we began our rescue and rehabilitation centre. During rescues they'd provide information on orangutan conservation issues and the fact that it is illegal to kill, capture or keep an orangutan as a pet.
One of our most successful recent programmes involves our conservation camps, which take place in the forest of Pematang Gadung. These camps are targeted at local teenagers, to develop and foster their interest in conservation, encourage them to become active stewards in the protection of Ketapang’s natural resources, and show them how decisions they make in their everyday lives can impact on the environment.
Due to the rapid expansion of industrial-scale agriculture, natural rainforest with the ability to sustain wild orangutan populations is becoming increasingly sparse and fragmented. Often an individual orangutan will find itself isolated from the remaining wild population, in an area of forest with little to no food and no obvious means to return. As the orangutan gets hungrier, it will go to greater lengths to find food. This could mean venturing into plantations, or even a village itself. This is when human orangutan conflict is extremely likely to occur and it’s at this point that our team is brought in.
A specially trained team from IAR Indonesia will sedate the orangutan, safely capture it and move it to an area of lush rainforest, usually within a protected park. Translocations are not only vital for the survival of the individual orangutan, but also the species as a whole and the natural biodiversity of the area. As an umbrella species, it is almost certain that if orangutans exist in an area, then it is still a viable place for other animals to live. Often called ‘gardeners of the forest,’ they play a crucial role in seed dispersal and maintaining the overall health of their local ecosystem.
After an orangutan has been returned to freedom, the inspirational work of the team at IAR Indonesia is far from over! The release process also involves a period of extensive monitoring which is carried out for a minimum of one to two years. During this time, the team monitors the released orangutan to ensure that it is thriving in the wild. From when the orangutan wakes up, to when the orangutan builds a nest for the night, all actions are carefully recorded by the team and used to build an understanding of how that individual is adapting to his or her new life in the rainforest.
However, monitoring an orangutan is not an easy job. The team is up in the early hours of the morning to ensure they get to the nesting area before the orangutan wakes up. Once on the move, a record of movements and behaviours is taken every two minutes using GPS. They can easily travel over 10 miles a day, tracking the orangutan as it swings from tree to tree! The results are collected and this important data helps the team assess how well orangutans can adapt to life in the wild after a period of rehabilitation at the rescue centre.