The Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit (HOCRU) recently worked together with personnel from Aceh's forestry authority to evacuate a 20 year old female orangutan who had become isolated in a rubber plantation owned by a resident of Suka Makmur Village in Subulussalam.
The orangutan, named Sukma because she was found in Suka Makmur, was examined and found to be healthy enough to be translocated straight away. She was taken to the Singkil Rawa reserve, one of the most important areas of forest in terms of Sumatran orangutan population size.
The HOCRU programme maintains a list of sites with known populations of isolated orangutans that are monitored on a regular basis, so orangutans are only translocated when it is deemed unsafe for them to remain where they are. The team maintains open lines of communication with farmers, plantation owners and local residents and conducts ongoing assessments of the threat level to each known individual or small population. In Sukma's case, local residents felt that it was problematic for her to remain in the rubber plantation with little other tree cover around, so to avoid conflict, the team translocated her. Conservation endeavours cannot succeed without the engagement of those communities who live side-by-side with wildlife. The presence of the HOCRU teams in landscapes where human-orangutan conflict is prevalent, or at risk of becoming so, is vital to ensure people’s concerns are heard, and solutions created together.
While many oil palm plantations in Sumatra are owned by large companies, there are also a large number of smaller plantations owned by community members - smallholder farmers who have a few oil palm trees to bolster their income. Recently, the orangutan rescue team were called to check on an adult female orangutan from a community plantation in South Aceh. Aged 20, the orangutan (named Meme by the team) was in good health and had no injuries, showing that she had obviously not been harmed by anyone living nearby. She was, however, a bit malnourished so it was decided that she should be relocated to Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve, one of the Sumatran orangutan's remaining strongholds.
The team said, "Evacuation is the last resort in the orangutan rescue effort. Rescuing orangutans to us, is an act of human responsibility towards environment and planet Earth, and bigger than any awards we could achieve. Now, Meme has returned to the wild where she belongs, thanks to the support and trust you all give to our HOCRU team.".
As you know, one of the ways that the orangutan rescue team helps Sumatran orangutans is by evacuating them from conflict situations. However, this is not the only method they have for overcoming human-wildlife conflict - mitigating conflict requires a set of constant and consistent activities, one of which is monitoring isolated orangutans.
Monitoring isolated orangutans is a preventative measure to halt conflict before it begins. By gathering data about isolated orangutans spotted outside their usual forest range, the team can map out potential areas of conflict and carry out preventative actions like communicating with local people about how to protect their crops without harming the orangutans.
Orangutans themselves can be difficult to see, so the team often relies on trace findings such as half-eaten fruit, seeds and orangutan nests. To give an idea of the scale of the team's task: between February and April this year alone, they found 104 nests outside of forests across North Sumatra province - a strong indication that this work is important. Without the team's monitoring, the orangutans who built these nests might have ended up needing to be evacuated instead of being left alone to make their own way back to the forest.
Thank you for continuing to make this work possible.
As you know, the orangutan rescue teams work on the frontline of orangutan protection in Sumatra. Responding to urgent calls around the clock, three HOCRU teams cover the Leuser and Batang Toru landscapes – evacuating Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutans and Tapanuli orangutans from dangerous situations and enabling their return to the wild.
Rescue operations usually involve driving hundreds of miles, often off-road, so it’s vital for the HOCRU teams to have four-wheel-drive trucks they can rely upon. The South Aceh team, who made headlines in 2019 when they rescued an orangutan called Hope who had been shot 74 times, were having major problems with their truck – it regularly broke down, and the expense of repairing it was a big drain on their rescue budget.
Thanks to your ongoing support and donations, we were delighted a couple of weeks ago when we were able to send funds to the team to buy a new truck. They have already rescued a baby orangutan who had been bitten by dogs, and being able to complete the rescue without worrying about the truck breaking down was a huge relief.
Thank you so much for all you do to support Sumatra's orangutans and the people who work around the clock to save them.
Although most of the rescue team's work is with orangutans - they are often called to evacuate adult orangutans from plantations or farmland, and also confiscate baby orangutans from the illegal pet trade - this doesn't mean they won't help other species in need, and the siamang in the photo above is just one recent example. She had been seen repeatedly by residents of a village in Aceh province, but these same residents initially felt that the team didn't need to get involved as they didn't see the siamang as a problem. After a few weeks, though, the siamang started to change her behaviour in response to being around humans, and eventually started trying to take food from local shops. To avoid more serious conflict developing, and to protect the siamang's health, the team tranquilised and evacuated her, taking her to a wildlife rehabilitation centre for eventual release back into the wild.
“Our team can’t just sit around if anyone needs our support. We will help other wildlife as best as we can so they can roam free back into the wild. On many occasions, our team has actively participated to mitigate wildlife conflicts with animals such as elephants, sun bears, slow lorises, eagles, and gibbons” - Jenny, rescue program manager
A few days after evacuating the siamang, the team received a report about a female orangutan who was stranded in a plantation in another part of Aceh. When the team reached her, they realised she was 13km (just over 8 miles) away from the nearest patch of forest. Despite this, the orangutan - later named Sofi - had no health problems, so the team released her into the forest later that day.
Thank you for supporting the team to help orangutans and other wildlife in Sumatra.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.
Get Reports via Email
We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.
Give the gift of stability in a time of instability. Set up an automatic, monthly gift now and get matched at 100%—because the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt us all, and it will take all of us to overcome it. Terms and conditions apply.
Monthly giving is as easy, safe, and as inexpensive as a Netflix subscription. Start a monthly donation to Sumatran Orangutan Society today and get matched at 100%. Terms and conditions apply.