Camp Leakey

National Park Visit

I am sorry for the long silence – I had a fantastic break with my family in Australia. I hope you all had a similarly good end to the year. I actually got back to Indonesia on 9 January but had to spend a frustrating week in Jakarta; the traffic jams in the city are something else! Anyway, I arrived back in Pangkalan Bun last Thursday and, you’ll be pleased to know, I wasted no time in getting back into the forest. Yesterday, the National Park office hosted a visit by the Bupati, the head of the local Government. There was a cast of thousands; well 67 to be precise but the orangutans did not seem at all fazed.

Bupati visit to Tanjung Puting National Park

Visit to Camp Leakey organised by the National Park Office.

There were lots of orangutans about including Tom who remained incredibly cool despite the crowd of onlookers. Even the gibbons came in.


Feeding Platform Camp Leakey

Feeding Site - Camp Leakey

After everyone had moved back to Camp I stayed on at the feeding site as there was a new sub-adult male at the feeding platform. The Assistants tell me it is Popeye, the son of the wild female orangutan Peat. Ashley and I can remember following him when he was just an adolescent. Unfortunately, it was getting very dark and overcast by then so my pictures don’t do the scene justice.

Orangutans at Camp Leakey

There are in fact three or four orangutans in the photo spread out through the trees - you might be able to just work them out.

The day ended in a local village with a display of traditional dancing. All in all it was a fine welcome back!

Traditional Dancing

Brigitta - thank you very much for you recent donations we really appreciate your support.

Orangutans and water - an unusual mix

Thank you for all your comments and I'll do my best to respond to them soon. Another interesting thing happened on Sunday at Camp Leakey: Siswi almost completely submerged herself in water. Orangutans can’t swim though they do wade. The rehabilitated, ex-captives at Camp Leakey will also play with water but that is probably a behaviour learnt from watching the staff. What made Sunday interesting was that Siswi spent so long in the water. She sat there for a good fifteen minutes and actually bobbed up and down so the water rose up to her chin.

Siswi bathing

Siswi - adult female orangutan in the river.

I am quite convinced she was simply trying to cool off. However, that does not fully explain a) quite how an orangutan’s natural wariness of water could be so totally overcome; let’s not forget there are crocodiles in these rivers and b) how an orangutan who instinctively shelters from rain, which makes them cold, would on another occasion use water for exactly that purpose.

Siswi in the river

Siswi sitting in the river

Who knows whether Siswi would have sat in the water for so long if we had not been there and it is not a huge intellectual leap to realise water makes you cold and you can choose when you want to be cool or dry. However, none of that dry scientific reasoning detracts from the interest: orangutans are fascinating!

Camp Leakey Tanjung Puting National Park

Thanks to Georgina Kenyon who has written this short piece for us about her experience making the BBC radio programme. "It’s embarrassing to say but I can’t remember being that interested in orangutans…until I saw the big male Kusasi coming straight for Stephen and me at the feeding platform at Camp Leakey.

What an animal!

I also loved walking through the forest, following the other orangutans as they were looking for food– those four hands and those eyes!

I’ll always remember my stay that night on the klotok and listening to the sounds of the Borneo jungle – the rowdy chainsaw beetles and the gibbons at first light and watching the butterflies and the birds of prey.

I have always thought the issues surrounding conservation can be very complicated - so many threats, so many issues.

Yet I was impressed by the pragmatism of the staff at the Orangutan Foundation; they made all the problems facing the jungle appear manageable.

A big ‘thankyou’ to all the team at the Orangutan Foundation-everyone went out of their way to help me make the BBC radio programme."

Sad and Rare Death of a Baby Orangutan Killed by a Pig.

Tragedy struck us again this week with the news from Camp Leakey, in Tanjung Puting National Park, that Tut, a female orangutan, had her two-year old baby killed by a pig. It appears the pig and orangutans were near to each other in Camp when the pig turned and snapped at Tiido, catching the young orangutan around the head. One bite was enough. Tut immediately picked him up and when the assistants rushed over they could see Tiido was still alive but, within an hour, he was lying limp in his mother’s arms.

I am afraid I don’t have a recent photo of Tiido but if you zoom in on the photo below, of Tut sitting by the tree, you can see a tiny arm across her waist. That was Tiido when he was new born.

Tut September 06

Peter’s photos show him when he was a year old. I am afraid I don’t have more recent photos.

Tut -Peter Ellen

Tut and Tiido -Peter Ellen

Tut with her beautiful baby Tiido. Photo by Peter Ellen.

Tut was released at Camp Leakey in the very early days of Biruté Galdikas' research there. Indeed, she is the mother of Tom the present “King of Camp Leakey". Tiido was her fourth son.

Tut family tree

Bornean Bearded pigs are common in this area primarily because they are omnivorous; they will eat anything. This means they can survive in a wide variety of habitats including oil palm plantations – where they are considered pests – as well as in dense forest. They tend to hang around the orangutan feeding stations so they can scavenge left-overs or dropped fruit.

Bornean Bearded Pig

Bearded Pig

They are temperamental and have been known to chase orangutans, probably in the hope the orangutan will drop the food they are carrying. In 1985 Biruté Galdikas reported a pig killing a young orangutan. But this week’s incident was the first of its kind in over 20 years.

Regarding Tiido’s death, I know people will say “that’s life; it is nature red in tooth and claw”. In my heart of hearts I agree with them. But I still feel sick and a little heartbroken (I threw a branch at the first pig I saw on Saturday).

To end on a positive note, thank you very much Maciej G. for your donation of $130. This is hugely appreciated and will go towards our new feeding system in Lamandau.