RAINFOREST: LIVE! Conservation Meets the Technological Era

The growing relationship between technology and conservation is one that seems to play an increasingly important role. The ease with which we can have instant contact with our staff in the field enables us to have up-to-the-minute knowledge of our work on the ground like never before. The ability to connect with one’s supporters directly, wherever they live around the world, is also an incredible luxury. It allows conservation organisations to see first-hand how much support they have and to thank their dedicated ambassadors every step of the way. Moreover, the unbridled nature of social media helps us all to extend awareness for important issues and campaigns far beyond our usual reach.

Here in the UK office, receiving news from our field sites in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve and Tanjung Puting National Park (both in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia), is often the best part of our day. To see photographs of rescued orangutans receiving the veterinary care they need provides unparalleled motivation to raise funds for such programmes. Being able to watch a video of an orangutan released back into the wild serves as great inspiration for us to continue working with the Indonesian government to protect large areas of critical habitat. When we see our Indonesian staff going to great lengths to take extraordinary photographs for the pure pleasure of it, it lets us know that we’re helping to engage the local communities with the wildlife around them.

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Up close photography of a long-ledge fly in Lamandau taken by Foundation vet, Dr Wawan.

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Our staff captures an intimate moment shortly after an orangutan birth back in January.

With the use of GPS and satellite mapping, the Foundation can constantly monitor areas affected by increases in deforestation, as well as map out protected borders. This also means that when our staff rescues an orangutan, we can see immediately where they were found, as well as what region is most suitable for their release.

Thanks to advances in technology, we needn’t be detached from the work we do halfway across the world; and thanks to social media, the public can always be as engaged with our conservation work as we are.

That’s why the Orangutan Foundation is thoroughly excited to be able to share these moments with you, the public, LIVE on June 19th during an annual global project called Rainforest: Live! Throughout the day the Foundation, alongside several other prominent conservation NGOs, will be posting live reports, photos, and videos directly from our Indonesian field sites all over Facebook and Twitter. This will also be a unique opportunity for you to interact and engage with the Foundation directly, asking questions, sharing posts and showing how much you care about the world’s rainforests.

Last year, OuTrop (Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project) alone saw the hash tag #rainforestlive 120,000 times. Let’s try to top that this year, spreading our love of rainforests and the life that inhabits them as far across the globe as possible!

JUNE 19TH #rainforestlive

 

 

Rescued but Not Free

We think all concerned must have been surprised to find a 12-year-old male sun bear being kept as a pet by Mr Sutiyo, the vice-head of the district resort police. Mr Sutiyo had kept the sun bear for 12 years, feeding him a fattening diet of rice, sugar and honey. Upon the arrival of a translocation team, the bear was anaesthetised by the Foundation vet, Dr Wawan, and put into a large cage so that he could be transported to Pangkalan Bun.

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                                    Foundation vet, Wawan, preparing an anaesthetic

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                           The sun bear was anaesthetised and given a full health check

As Mr Sutiyo was leaving Sampit, for Jakarta, he finally made the decision to give his pet up to the authorities, and allow him be returned to the wild. Unfortunately, since the sun bear has been kept as a pet for so many years, and is very overweight due to its poor diet, it will not make a suitable candidate for release. Exotic pets lack the ability to feed, protect or more generally fend for themselves in the wild, and they face an extremely low rate of survival if released without these skills.

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                   Sadly this sun bear is unlikely to ever be released fully into the wild

For this reason, our staff could not free the sun bear into one of the Foundation’s release sites. Instead it was coordinated that the sun bear be taken to Orangutan Foundation International’s (OFI) orangutan care and quarantine facility, where he will get the care he needs, yet sadly with little hope of eventual release.

This is a prime example of the unfair consequences of keeping wild animals as pets, and is sadly not the first case we’ve heard of people in authoritative positions being held accountable. Cases like these only highlight the importance of our educational programmes, through which the Foundation endeavours to teach local communities the implications of holding orangutans captive. We hope that these programmes continue to be met with great success.

Help us to continue this much-needed work by donating toward our educational programmes in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. http://www.orangutan.org.uk/how-to-help/make-a-donation

 

The True Guardians of the Forest

On the 30th April, Foundation staff ran their routine patrols. As most of you know, habitat protection is a core priority for the Orangutan Foundation: if the forests are not safe, neither are the orangutans. The use of guard posts and patrols to protect Tanjung Puting National Park and the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve from illegal logging, farming, mining and hunting has so far been extremely successful.

Thus after hearing new reports of illegal logging taking place in Pos Rasau, Foundation staff hastily set out in a speedboat with 7 people from the BKSDA and the Department of Forestry, as well as 2 police officers.

Here they discovered the remnants of illegal logging activities.

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              A Department of the Ministry of Forestry official evaluates the damage

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           Foundation staff and the Ministry of Forestry officials document the scene

 

Though the perpetrators were nowhere to be seen, they had left behind 12 planks of timber, and 12 types of wood varnish. In a nearby location, many more planks of timber were found, as well as the personal cooking supplies of the loggers, who had again evaded being caught by our patrols.

Yet while on the river towards Mangkung, our patrols found a group of people loading more planks of wood onto their boat.

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                                        Illegal loggers loading timber onto their boat

When they pulled up on site, the police and the Department of Forestry employees were able to order the workers to end their illegal logging in this location. Our patrols will continue to monitor this area in the weeks to come to ensure this order is taken seriously.

The Foundation is confident that thanks to our use of patrols, cases of illegal logging can be brought to an end before escalating any further in these critical areas of orangutan forest.

 

The Fruits of Our Labour

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Spring has brought with it a plentiful fruiting season to Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, meaning orangutans don’t need to be visiting our camp feeding sites to compensate for food shortages anymore. Because of this, our field staff aren’t seeing nearly as many orangutans as they did earlier in the year!

That is why we were especially excited to catch a glimpse of one of our rescued orangutans, Okto, playing in the trees this week. As a young juvenile, Okto has been part of our soft-release programme for the past 6 months. This programme is for young orangutans that need extra monitoring and care. They are taken daily to the forest to learn about their natural food resources and to practice their climbing.

Now that the fruiting season has begun, Okto has been seen to be enjoying climbing as well as finding all the right fruits to feed himself with. This comes as wonderful news to the Foundation, as it is proof that our soft-release programme is good preparation for an orangutan to survive in the wild.

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[Okto eating ubar fruits]

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[Okto not eating ubar fruits…]

 

Friday the 13th brings good luck for our rescue teams!

Friday 13th is a day infamously associated with bad luck, but fortunately in our case, the day brought us good fortune! After two earlier rescue attempts, the Foundation staff were finally able to safely and successfully release another orangutan left stranded by habitat destruction into a protected release camp.

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The remnant forest near Pangkalan Bun where teams found the stranded orangutan

Orangutan Foundation staff, alongside the BKSDA rescue team, responded to a report that an orangutan was destroying the oil-palm trees on a farmer’s plantation near Pangkalan Bun.

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Foundation staff sharing our newsletters with the local people

 

Foundation staff quickly established that this plantation was within an area of now fragmented secondary peat swamp forest, the remnants of what would have been an orangutan’s preferred habitat. Such sites are proof that suitable orangutan habitats continue to shrink.

 

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The orangutan’s handiwork on an oil-palm plant

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The treetop nest where the rescue team found the orangutan

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It took the effort of the whole team to get the large orangutan safely down from his nest.

 

Yet although Foundation staff were able to assess the site, it wasn’t until the third time our rescue teams were contacted on Friday 13th that they were able to track down the orangutan.

 

 

 

Once they had found him, our rescue team then had to work particularly hard to manoeuvre the moist peat and scrubland habitat, as well as to anaesthetise the orangutan. With a large, strong and cheek- padded male, this was no easy feat!

 

 

A full physical health examination showed that the wild orangutan was healthy and aged +- 25 years, making him a perfect candidate for immediate release into one of the Foundation’s release camp sites, all within 48 hours of capture.

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Our Foundation vet giving a full health examination with the help of the staff

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The large cheek-padded male awaiting his release

Once the anaesthetic had worn off, our team, alongside staff from Camp Siswoyo, opened the adult male’s cage doors and watched as he quickly assessed his new environment before disappearing into the tall tree-tops. The Foundation is excited to welcome a mature and healthy male into a protected reserve, and has decided to name him Raja! Good luck Raja!

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OF staff releasing Raja into Camp Siswoyo

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Raja quickly ascending into tree-tops to explore his new habitat

From fruit garden to forest refuge…

Whilst orangutans are found in oil palm plantation or community land, it means their habitat is still shrinking. However these orangutans can still have a safe future in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.  Already this year two orangutans have been rescued and translocated into the Reserve.

This is Kuala’s story, sent by one of our staff,  a six year old male, he had been damaging the village garden of Mr Joko. Mr Joko kept him for over a week, before a neighbour pointed out that orangutans are a protected species.  Mr Joko then contacted the BKSDA who, with the Orangutan Foundation’s vet and staff, travelled to the village ‘a 10 hour journey from the Foundations office’, where Kuala (named after the village) was handed over.

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Mr Joko handing over Kuala

After all the required health checks were clear he was able to be transferred to the Reserve.

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The health check – under anesthetic

Seemingly impatient to be back in the forest, Kuala stood rattling his cage and looking upwards at the trees. Once the cage door was opened he surveyed his surroundings and then without hesitation was straight up a tree. He was moving so quickly from tree to tree that it was difficult for the staff monitoring him to keep up, but by the end of the day, they were able to see he had already made his night nest, back in the wild where he belongs, and safe.  He was monitored for the next ten days.

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Kuala moving into the trees

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Kuala heads upwards into the branches

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Safe in the wild, soon to build a night nest

Exciting start to the New Year!

Sheila gave birth to her third offspring on the 15th of December 2014. We don’t yet know if it’s male or female. Her nurturing instinct is obvious from just looking at the photos.

This birth is a testament to the ideal habitat she lives in, and to the conservation work that protects this area; the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. The Foundation has always said, “If you protect the habitat, you protect the wildlife” – please read more by clicking here.

This offspring is a very good start to 2015, and two more are on the way ! f Sheila beDSC_1733 f Sheila eDSC_1948 f Sheila third offspring eDSC_1844 fb Sheila DSC_1973

 

 

Now it’s New Year, we look back with confidence, knowing that we have made a difference…

The Foundation works in three areas of critical orangutan habitat. We extend the scope of our achievements by patrolling an area almost as large as the land area of Singapore. Our strategically located guard posts are therefore vital. We have been able to rescue more and more orangutans whose lives were in imminent danger. 75% of all orangutans live outside protected areas, so with our partners, we launched a campaign to collaborate with 18 oil palm companies for the protection of orangutans within the forests of their companies concessions and surrounding areas.A new born infant rides on their mother’s back.

  • In 2014, the Foundation translocated 17 orangutans into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.
  • Torup and Kotim were rescued from community land and both are now in the ‘Soft Release’ programme, learning skills for an independent life in the wild.
  • 2014 saw the birth of two infants, and two more orangutans are due to give birth in mid 2015.
  • An exciting new initiative was the installation of camera traps in Pondok Ambung, Tanjung Puting National Park and Belantikan Arut. Without these camera traps, we would of never have had sightings of clouded leopards, one of the most elusive species of the tropical forest.

Camera trap captures a clouded leopard.

  • The Volunteer Programme once again proved its worth, by renovating a Guard Post on a vulnerable river in the south of Tanjung Puting National Park.
  • An important research project is the Population and distribution of the endangered banteng (wild ox), found in the Belantikan region. This is critical to the banteng’s future status.

Our teams bravely fight fires, the blaze reoccurring every dry season.

  •  Thanks to the diligence of the Foundation staff, forest fires (an annual problem) were quickly identified and isolated, which prevented further areas of the forest from being burnt.

Thank you to all – your support really does make a difference and the orangutan foundation could not have achieved any the above without your help. A very happy New Year.

The Foundation out and about…

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The class made leaves and a ‘forest’ for their classroom

In October this year, the Foundation staff visited a school in west London, one of several schools we’ve enjoyed visiting in 2014. Our UK school visits go hand in hand with our Education Programme in Indonesia, read more here. 

This class had been studying rainforests across the globe, learning how habitat destruction effects the endangered orangutan and other wildlife. With the presentation and activities led by Foundation staff, the visit further encouraged the class to raise environmental awareness. Children particularly enjoyed listening to an orangutan long call and trying to make the distinctive call themselves.

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The children’s research

The Foundation thanks the class and teaching staff for their generous contribution.

To learn more about orangutans, with downloadable resources, please visit our website (click here). See our wide range of work in Indonesia by clicking here. 

Thank you to everyone who supported Orangutan Awareness Week and The Big Give this year.

 

A welcome end to the dry season…

Foundation staff have welcomed the end to the prolonged dry season, more than three months. During this time, it was very difficult to reach Camps and Guard Posts with food and logistics. In spite of the low rivers and logs blocking access, staff were still able to get supplies to the camps and guard posts, even if it sometimes took them 6 – 7 hours, rather than the normal 2 – 3. Even under these difficult conditions, the staff carried out their work with dedication and good humor.

The dry season is also the reason behind the fires that occur annually – this year they were especially severe. For the future, the Foundation staff need to be prepared by creating more bore holes and providing extra fire fighting equipment. It is only through these measures that we are able to control the fires and to prevent any further destruction to the forest and threats to the wildlife.

Thank you to all our dedicated staff in the field.

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Fire fighting team in action

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Fire damage, needing years to regenerate.

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Equipment and training is important to fight the fires effectively.

 

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The effort needed to get supplies to camp

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Removing logs from the low-level river