Small feel of freedom

I had a great weekend but the home-coming was a little rough. As we have said, the orangutans at the Orangutan Care Centre & Quarantine (OCCQ) are let out to play and learn in the forest. That is good. When the orangutans let themselves out, that's a problem! On Monday eight of the little, "less-than-adorable" orange bundles of mischief took it upon themselves to demonstrate just how rusty their enclosure had become. They popped out its side. Three were obviously a bit shocked at their new found freedom and contented themselves climbing up the outside. One went straight for the food room while the others dispersed themselves around the adjacent cages and our guess is they wanted to find the girls.

All of which would be an amusing anecdote if weren’t for the fact that their enclosure really is beyond repair. For a long time we have actually being patching up earlier repairs but that is getting ridiculous. It is time for a rebuild. And, as the staff are quick to point out, there is another cage in almost the same state.

Cage that has broken

Photo of the enclosure (middle one) that has now broken.

Rusting cages

Rusting bars

I am writing in the hope you will consider donating towards the cost of the repairs. A rebuild will cost 13,000,000 Rupiah (approximately $1,410/£714 each). The Foundation has found the money for the first - just so we can minimise the over-crowding that would be caused by moving the eight escapees to other already occupied spaces. At this stage, we have no budget allocation for the extra repairs. We are hoping to raise $3000. This will cover the cage repairs and money remaining from your donations will go towards building temporary holding cages in Lamandau, our orangutan release site. Your support, helping us to reach this target, will be most appreciated.

To put the “happy” story of the breakout into context, that same afternoon we received a tiny infant orangutan, probably around 9 months old. It is rumoured that his mother had been shot and eaten (a practice still carried out by some remote Dayak tribes), he was being kept tied up in a house. The village he came from is at the very southern edge of the Belantikan region but is in the same logging concession in which the Foundation/Yayorin's, Belantikan Conservation Programme (BCP), work. The orphan was found by a couple of logging operation supervisors who took him from the house and gave him to Iman, head of the BCP team. Iman immediately set off on the seven hour drive back to the OCCQ.

Abraham -infant

I am sorry I did not have my camera with me on Monday - this is an orphan we received sometime ago called Abraham. Helpless doesn't quite capture it, does it?

That orphan will almost certainly have to remain in captivity for four years. And he is only one of the thirty or more orphans we are likely to receive this year. I think there is no better testament to the work of Mr Sehat, Dr Popo and all the other staff at the OCCQ that they can nurture tiny, helpless, traumatized orphans into the boisterous youngsters who then break out. The number of orphans we take in and the length of time rehabilitation takes also explain the wear and tear on the cages.

A final word, to end on a positive note, what made my weekend so good: I went to Camp Leakey, the old orangutan release site. Seeing the orangutans which have been successfully rehabilitated, climbing free in the trees (see photos below) reminds you that there can be a happy outcome to such tragic beginnings.

Apologies for my awful photography.

SB Camp Leakey 4/08

SB 2 Camp Leakey 4/08

SB 3 Camp Leakey 4/08