orangutan rescue

Orangutans rescued from oil palm plantation marks International Orangutan Day

While people around the world celebrated the red ape this week, our team have had a busy few days spent rescuing orangutans in need. To go behind the scenes and understand some of the challenges still facing orangutans, our team in the field have put together a timeline of our most recent orangutan rescue:

Orangutans high in the canopy

Orangutans high in the canopy

Mother and infant climb higher into the trees

Mother and infant climb higher into the trees

Friday morning- It was reported to government officers this week that an orangutan had been spotted within a community oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. Once the location had been determined, our orangutan rescue team were then called upon to assist.

Friday 11:45am - On arrival, a female orangutan was observed with an infant in an isolated copse of trees, entirely surrounded by oil palm plantation. With the dimensions of this tiny patch of fragmented forest being a mere 10x20 metre area, and any suitable nearby forest considered too far away for the pair to travel, a decision was made to rescue them from this remote island of trees for their safety. In practice however, the strong winds and height of the trees made tranquilising the female a very difficult task, and it wasn’t until several hours later that the pair were finally safely brought down from the canopy.

Oil palm plantation completely encompass the pair and their small fragment of forest

Oil palm plantation completely encompass the pair and their small fragment of forest

Friday 6pm - With the light beginning to fade, and the female orangutan under sedation, it was the role of the veterinary team to perform a quick physical examination to check the health of the pair. Under initial inspection, it was observed that they were in relatively good health except the mother had several air rifle pellets embedded in her skin, and therefore required further attention. As the night drew closer, the pair were then carefully transported to a temporary facility for them to rest.

Sunday evening - In honour of Indonesian Independence Day on the Friday, the 16-year-old female orangutan had been called Augustine, and her young, who had been identified as a 2 or 3-year-old male, named Augusta. They had both rested and recuperated from their rescue, and now our team were required to act fast to try and observe the number and severity of Augustine’s gun pellet injuries.

Sunday 9pm - In order to monitor the number and location of the bullets in Augustine’s skin, she was taken along with Augusta to a nearby public hospital so that she could be X-rayed. After being safely anesthetised, she was found to have 7 air rifle pellets lodged in her skin.

Sunday 10:15pm - It was at this point that our veterinary team, alongside government officials, began the minor surgical procedure of removing as many bullets as possible from Augustine. The delicate operation was able to remove 5 of the pellets, with a further 2 too deeply embedded into her tissue to be able to safely extract. Fortunately, Augustine appeared to come out of the hour and 15 minute procedure in good health.

Air rifle pellets removed from Augustine’s skin

Air rifle pellets removed from Augustine’s skin

Monday 2pm - As the previous evening’s medical procedure had run so smoothly, the following day after a final check-up from our team, Augustine and Augusta were given the all clear to be released back into the wild. A safe area within the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve was selected as an ideal relocation site as this region is protected by Orangutan Foundation guard posts, and after a short boat ride, the pair were happily released into the forest. Once their transport cage was opened, our team were able to catch a quick glimpse of the orangutans before climbing into the nearby trees.

Augustine and Augusta are resealed safely into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve

Augustine and Augusta are resealed safely into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve

It’s encouraging to know that Augustine and Augusta will now be able to thrive in their new protected habitat. However, witnessing these orangutans initially stranded in the last remaining forest due to habitat loss, shows hows orangutans remain under threat and that the work of the Orangutan Foundation is still needed.

To find out how you can become a Guardian of Lamandau and protect Augustine and Augusta’s new home, please explore our website.

Two rescued orangutans returned to the wild

Two critically endangered orangutans are now back in the wild, where they belong, thanks to the dedicated work of the Orangutan Foundation’s team and the Natural Resources Conservancy Agency of Central Kalimantan (BKSDA).

Both orangutans were wild born but tragically ended up orphaned and rescued by Orangutan Foundation. Shifa was rescued from being kept as a pet in September 2016, when she was only 2-years-old. Panglima, was rescued at the end of March 2019, from community forest, he is thought to be about 5-years-old but showed extremely wild behaviour (read more about his rescue).

Shifa rescued in September 2016

Shifa rescued in September 2016

Habitat loss is forcing wild orangutans into closer contact with humans. We can’t say for sure what happened to the mothers of Shifa and Panglima but it is most likely they were killed, because they were considered as pests. As an infant, Shifa would have been clinging to her mother and so she was taken to become a pet. Panglima, being older and more independent, must have been apart from his mother when she was killed.

Panglima rescue by Orangutan Foundation and Wildlife Department (BKSDA) Central Kalimantan

Panglima rescue by Orangutan Foundation and Wildlife Department (BKSDA) Central Kalimantan

Shifa was taken to the 158,000-acre protected Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. She lived at Camp Buluh, one of five post-release monitoring sites in the reserve, which she shared with another orphaned orangutan, Okto. The two young orangutans were great playmates and Okto helped Shifa to adjust to her new life.

Okto (left) and Shifa (right)

Okto (left) and Shifa (right)

Shifa always displayed very wild instincts and, as she got older, these became stronger and more evident. Increasingly she would go off exploring the surrounding forest and was reluctant to return to her enclosure at night.

Shifa in her nest and increasingly reluctant to go back into her enclosure.

Shifa in her nest and increasingly reluctant to go back into her enclosure.

It was decided to release Shifa before she released herself! When an orangutan is fully released back to an independent life, Orangutan Foundation staff follow the individual for up to two weeks to ensure the orangutan is able to survive. Ashley Leiman OBE, Orangutan Foundation Founder and Director/Trustee, was present for the two releases and was encouraged to see how readily both orangutans clambered up into the trees to begin their new life.

As soon as the transport cage door opened, Shifa shot straight out and climbed up the nearest tree

As soon as the transport cage door opened, Shifa shot straight out and climbed up the nearest tree

Shifa and Panglima have had to overcome massive hurdles early on in their life. Our challenge now is to ensure the rest of their life is spent in the wild. We are doing this by safeguarding their globally important forest habitat in Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. Orangutan Foundation actively monitor the reserve with a network of guard posts and regular patrolling to prevent illegal activities from destroying the forests and harming wildlife.

Update on rescued 5-year-old wild orangutan

Yesterday our vet, Dr Dimas, and our reintroduction manager, Mr Azhari, visited Panglima, the five-year-old wild orangutan, who we rescued last week. Panglima is temporarily being kept in isolation at Camp Siswoyo, in Lamandau Wildlife Reserve.

Panglima in enclosure.jpg

The staff at Camp Siswoyo provide leaves and branches every day as an enrichment. He doesn’t use the tyre swing but we’re sure he will as he adapts to his new surroundings. Panglima rests on the enclosure floor but as soon as anyone approaches he climbs to the top of the enclosure. He is wild and it is good that he is wary of humans, which is something we want to maintain. He is eating well and this is also a positive sign.