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Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra

by Sumatran Orangutan Society
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Orangutan Rescue: On the frontline in Sumatra
Baby Sisca. Photo courtesy of OIC.
Baby Sisca. Photo courtesy of OIC.

In the last week, while most people are working from home, the orangutan rescue team has been on the road attending to orangutans in desperate need of help. As one of the team pointed out, "Human-wildlife conflict hasn't stopped for the pandemic, so conservation can't stop for a pandemic either".

The first, Maria, was found inside a mixed oil palm and rubber plantation around 7km away from the forest. Estimated to be around 18 years old, and thankfully in good health, Maria was released back into the wild later that same day.

Two days later, the team received reports of a female baby orangutan being kept in a village in Aceh province after someone found her in their plantation, reportedly with no sign of her mother anywhere nearby. The baby, named Sisca, is thought to be around 10 months old. She was weak and malnourished when the team picked her up, so she is now in the care of vets at the rehabilitation centre.

Finally, the team rescued a 25 year old male orangutan, later named Bangun, from a rubber plantation in Aceh province. Sadly, Bangun was found with a bullet in his foot and in a poor, malnourished condition, so he is also undergoing treatment at the rehabilitation centre.

The team are doing everything they can to stay safe and healthy while they undertake their rescue missions, but of course the fear of contracting Covid-19 is making an already tough job even more difficult. Please, if you can, continue to support them by donating to this project.

 

 

Maria undergoing a health check. Photo by OIC.
Maria undergoing a health check. Photo by OIC.
Bangun receiving treatment. Photo by OIC.
Bangun receiving treatment. Photo by OIC.

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While most people were enjoying the holiday season, the HOCRU team in Aceh had to spring into action to save one of the youngest baby orangutans they've ever been called out for. 

The baby, later named Eva, was estimated to be less than a week old when the team picked her up from a village near Subussalam. A local resident said that he found Eva near his farmland, and that her mother was nowhere to be seen. The HOCRU team suspects that someone had killed Eva's mother so they could sell Eva into the pet trade. Though this is illegal in Sumatra, selling an orangutan can brings in a large financial reward for someone who might be struggling to earn enough money through other means. The outreach work HOCRU does to speak to and help people who could potentially become illegal traders is vital in keeping these kind of incidents to a minimum.

Eva is now being cared for at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme rehabilitation centre near Medan, and will eventually be released into the wild when she is old enough. The HOCRU team are back in the field, monitoring orangutans who are in forests near human settlements and speaking to people in the villages they pass through on their journeys. 

Thank you for supporting the team as they carry out this physically and emotionally demanding work. 

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15 year old rescuee
15 year old rescuee

As well as rescues, the teams also conduct regular monitoring of orangutan territory to check for any signs of distress. They recently interviewed over 70 farmers to ask them if they had seen evidence of orangutans over the previous months. Not surprisingly, the most common time for farmers to see orangutan is during Durian harvesting season. Orangutans just love this fruit.

 

A total of 8 orangutans have been successfully rescued and re-released into the wild in the last few months. The majority of these were found in community farmland – in Sumatra each village has an area allocated as “community farmland” where locals typically grow a whole range of different crops. In these villages which border on forest, it is not uncommon for orangutans to stray into these areas, as they tend to be rich in fruit. Orangutans can still be seen as pests in these areas, as they will sometimes take all the fruit from one tree, so it’s important that people have an option to move the orangutan without harming them.

 The team also responded to reports of a sunbear caught in a snare and released him back into the wild. Sadly these rescues are still necessary, so thank you for helping to save these unique and wonderful animals.

orangutan and baby found during monitoring
orangutan and baby found during monitoring
Release of 9 year old male
Release of 9 year old male
Sunbear caught in snare
Sunbear caught in snare

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Bayu. Photo credit: Orangutan Information Centre
Bayu. Photo credit: Orangutan Information Centre

Did you know that we support not one but two Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) teams? Sumatra is the world's sixth-largest island, with areas of forest spread across different provinces, so having two teams is vital. It means each one can focus on a smaller area for ongoing monitoring and outreach work, and be available to respond to rescue call-outs more quickly, as they have less of a distance to travel.

A few weeks ago, both teams had to spring into action on the same day to attend two different rescues - one in North Sumatra province and one in Aceh province. In North Sumatra, a female orangutan estimated to be around 17 years of age was found isolated in small plantation in a village in Langkat district. The orangutan, later named Sally, was healthy and showed no signs of malnutrition, so the team released her into the wild later that day. In Aceh, a male orangutan, later named Bayu, was also reported as being isolated in a local resident's plantation. Aged around 25 and weighing a healthy 50kg, Bayu was also fit for release the same day. 

The HOCRU teams work day and night, in all weathers, on national holidays and during Ramadan to ensure that they reach every orangutan who needs their help, so your support means the world to them as well as to us. Thank you.

Conducting a health check on Sally.
Conducting a health check on Sally.
The evacuation process.
The evacuation process.

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Sitting in excrement
Sitting in excrement

The Rescue team have had a busy time – since our last report, they have conducted 7 rescues., including one which involved the tragic death of a young baby.

 

1. Together with the Leuser National park authority and BKSDA North Sumatra, OIC evacuated a male orangutan from Kaperas village in North Sumatra on February 2. The locals claimed to have found him with a wound on his forehead. As he was injured, he was handed over to the SOCP quarantine centre.

 

2. Back in the same area on February 5th, the teams evacuated a male orangutan from the same sub-village. This orangutan, later named Kapras, was evacuated smoothly. The vet found he was about 30 years old with one air rifle bullet on his arm and a ripped mouth, but over all in good health. Kapras was released back to the Leuser forest on the same day.

 

3. In Aceh province, in partnership with BKSDA Aceh and the National Park team, the team rescued a young orangutan on February 10th. Later named BomBom, he had been kept as a pet for 2 years by a local community member. He was taken to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme to be rehabilitated and will one day be released back into the wild.

 

4. On February 12th February, OIC HOCRU team worked together with BKDSA Aceh and the Wildlife Conservation Society team to save the life of a male orangutan in Paya Bumbum village, Aceh province. This orangutan had been isolated inside a local resident’s oil palm plantation for a while, so he needed to be evacuated to somewhere safe with plentiful food. From his general health check, Harry was estimated to be about 25 years old, with 5 air rifle bullets on his face. Despite this, Harry was considered well enough that he could be released back to the wild the same day.

 

5. Probably the most tragic evacuation came on 10th March. The team received information from BKSDA Aceh that there was an injured orangutan in Bunga Tanjung village, in Aceh province. Our team checked on the area and found a female orangutan with her baby isolated inside an oil palm plantation belonging to a local resident. They tranquilised both orangutans and rescued them together with Wildlife Conservation Society and BKSDA Aceh. The mother had serious injuries on her right arm, left finger and right leg. These had probably been caused by sharp tools. She also had both eyes damaged by air rifle bullets. The baby was found in a very weak condition. The team rushed the mother and baby to the quarantine centre, but unfortunately, on the way, the roughly one month old baby died. According to our vet, the baby couldn’t make it due to sustaining serious trauma and being extremely malnourished. The female orangutan we named Hope, after thousand hopes for her future. She is one of most tragic orangutans that we ever come across. Since this rescue, she has arrived safely at the quarantine centre, has been operated on and is being cared for by the team there. Due to her sight problems, it is unlikely she will be able to be released into the wild and we hope she will find a permanent home at SOCP’s haven.

 

6. During a regular isolated orangutan monitoring, The HOCRU team found an isolated orangutan in a patch of forest inside a palm oil plantation in Sei Serdang village, North Sumatra province on April 14th Seeing the small patch of forest he lived in, the team decided to rescue this male orangutan and translocate him to a safer place. The joint team consisted of OIC HOCRU team, BKSDA North Sumatra and the National Park authority. The orangutan, later named Prime, weighed around 30kg, was around 15 and in good health. He was released later that day back into the Leuser forest.

 

7. Another young orangutan was rescued by the joint team of OIC HOCRU team and BKSDA Aceh on April 24th Local people claimed to have found him without his mother in Pucuk Lembang village in Aceh. This young male orangutan, later named Panut (means Leader, on behalf of our founder and chairman of orangutan information centre as well as our hope that he will be an amazing dominant male roaming in the wild one day) had been put into a small box and was surrounded by his own excrement. The team tried to clean this roughly 3 year old orangutan with water. He was taken to the SOCP rehabilitation centre, so he can begin his journey towards a life back in the wild one day.

 

Thank you so much for all your support. Without it, we could not run this rescue programme. The fact that people know this team exists means they have someone to phone if an orangutan encroaches on their land. In this way, we hope to prevent more cases like Hope, where we see hideous injuries inflicted on these wonderful animals. Thank you for helping us to be part of the solution.

 

Bombom
Bombom
Carrying Prime
Carrying Prime
Hope's baby
Hope's baby
Hope
Hope
Rescue
Rescue

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @orangutansSOS
Project Leader:
Lucy Radford
Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom
$36,454 raised of $50,000 goal
 
882 donations
$13,546 to go
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