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
Sapto with the rescue team. Photo courtesy of OIC.
Sapto with the rescue team. Photo courtesy of OIC.

Though 2019 has barely begun, the orangutan rescue team has already been busy, evacuating three orangutans within the first few weeks of the year. The first, on 19th January, was a 30 year old male who had become stranded in an oil palm plantation in South Aceh. The orangutan, later named Poben, was found to be in good health by the team's vet, Dr Jenny, and was released the same day in Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve.

The next two rescues were both of infant orangutans, rescued just a day apart. Sapto, rescued on 22nd January, had been kept in a small, dirty chicken cage for six months. He was also fed inappropriate domestic food items like rice - a far cry from the nutrition he would get living with his mother in the wild. Sapto is estimated to be around two years old, and is now beginning his rehabilitation at the SOCP quarantine centre.

On 23rd January, the team was alerted to another male baby orangutan being kept as a pet. They travelled to a village in East Aceh to speak to the people keeping the baby and explain why this is illegal. Then, in collaboration with local authorities and police, they evacuated the baby to the SOCP quarantine centre to join Sapto and the other rescued orangutans being treated there. Now named Adij, the baby is also estimated to be around two years old. 

As Poben, Sapto and Adij begin their new lives, the rescue team has returned to monitoring orangutans in potentially dangerous situations. At any moment, the phone could ring - another call asking them to cross the country to save an orangutan's life. We are so grateful for their dedication - and for the donations you make, which allow their work to continue. Thank you.

Poben's release in Singkil. Photo courtesy of OIC.
Poben's release in Singkil. Photo courtesy of OIC.
Adij before his rescue. Photo courtesy of OIC.
Adij before his rescue. Photo courtesy of OIC.

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Ina and Boncel at the THS zoo
Ina and Boncel at the THS zoo

Not all of our orangutan rescues involve relocating orangutans from plantations or the pet trade. A recent case involved the Taman Hewan Siantar (THS) zoo, who received two orangutans suspected to have been poached from the Leuser ecosystem. The North Sumatran forestry authorities and the orangutan rescue team tried to remove the orangutans from the zoo, but the zoo refused to release them - a violation of Forestry Ministry Regulations that state that all confiscated orangutans have to be taken to an approved rehabilitation centre in preparation for release back into the wild.

After a public appeal supported on social media by people from around the world, and significant pressure from the authorities and the rescue team, the zoo finally relinquished the orangutans some weeks later. The orangutans, named Ina and Boncel, are now being rehabilitated at the quarantine and rehabilitation centre, and will eventually be released back into the wild.

Ready to be transported to the quarantine centre
Ready to be transported to the quarantine centre
Health checks
Health checks
Ina
Ina
Boncel
Boncel

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Nayla
Nayla

We work hard to ensure we can help any orangutan in need, and three recent stories highlight the diversity of situations in which we have to conduct these rescues.

In May, we received a report about a female orangutan, later named Nayla, who had been seen foraging in rubber and oil palm plantations. To avoid potentially fatal conflict, a join team of HOCRU and BKSDA sedated Nayla and moved her away from the area. A thorough health check showed she was in good condition, so the team was able to release her back into safe forest in the Leuser Ecosystem later that afternoon.

The very next day, HOCRU were called to a village in Langkat district to rescue another female orangutan. Named Bangkit, which translates as ‘awakening’, she was malnourished after struggling to find enough food to eat in the farmland she had ended up in after her forest was cut down. Knowing that she was at risk of starvation or even of retaliatory attacks from people whose crops she was foraging on, the team translocated her to a safe area of Leuser for her second chance at freedom.

In July, HOCRU received reports of a juvenile orangutan being kept by a retired military man in a village in East Aceh. Fatimah had been kept in a cage for six years and was too malnourished to be re-released straight away. She is currently at the quarantine centre at Batu Mbelin and will be released into the forest when she is strong and healthy enough to resume a life in the wild.

Bangkit
Bangkit
Bangkit
Bangkit
Fatimah, caged
Fatimah, caged
Fatimah on her way to the rescue vehicle
Fatimah on her way to the rescue vehicle

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Baby orangutan in cage
Baby orangutan in cage

Recent Orangutan Rescues

In the last two months, we have safely evacuated 5 orangutans. Two were babies rescued from a cage and the other three were older orangutans who needed to be moved to a safer patch of forest.

The baby was a 2 year old boy. In February, the HOCRU team were called to the village of Suka Rimbun village, Ketambe sub-district, Southeast Aceh by a local resident. They interviewed a local man called Darmin and he eventually handed over a young orangutan to Aceh BKSDA in Kutacane Resort. As this orphan had always been kept in captivity, he was transferred to the SOCP rehabilitation centre in Batu M’Belin.

In March, a female orangutan was found in a local plantation in Sumber Waras sub-village, Sei Serdang village, Batang Serangan subdistrict, Langkat district of North Sumatra province. A joint team consists of OIC HOCRU team, Gunung Leuser National Park authority and North Sumatran BBKSDA worked together to move her. Based on the physical check-up, the vet found two air rifle bullets in her cheek and chest. She was estimated to be 14 years old. She was directly translocated into Leuser forest area, after having passed the health checks of the vet.

Another female was reported in Sei Musam village in Langkat, North Sumatra. The team worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Gunung Leuser National Park authority, and the North Sumatra BBKSDA. Together, they evacuated a severely injured female orangutan, age 14. She was found with broken and infected fingers as well 2 air rifle bullets within her body. The orangutan was transferred to the SOCP quarantine centre to start the rehabilitation process.

On 16th of March 2018, team received a report from our partner organization, FKL, about an infant orangutan kept by a local resident in Peunaron village, East Aceh district. The HOCRU team visited the village and rescued an infant orangutan, age two. His condition was malnourished, so he was send to SOCP quarantine centre to undertake the rehabilitation process.

Another recent rescue was conducted on Friday, March 13th, 2018. The joint team rescued an adult male orangutan from an oil palm plantation In Oboh village, Rundeng Sub-district of Subussalam city - Aceh province. He was found wandering around an oil palm plantation owned by local resident. Following a physical check-up, he was stated healthy and translocated to Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve on the same day. It is an indication of the progress the team is making that HOCRU were called, rather than the orangutan being shot at to frighten him off.

healthy female being inspected
healthy female being inspected
Handing Baby over to SOCP Quarantine centre
Handing Baby over to SOCP Quarantine centre
Removing bullet
Removing bullet
Challenges of translocation
Challenges of translocation
Rescued Male
Rescued Male

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Dilan in cage
Dilan in cage

In the period from August to October 2017, the orangutan rescue team confiscated three orangutans based on reports received from the local community. These were rescued in partnership with the Natural Conservation&Resources Agency, known as B/BKSDA North Sumatra. All of the confiscated orangutans were from Aceh province.

                                                              

Since 2016, we have been able to set up a second HOCRU team to be based in Tapak Tuan, South Aceh regency, in Aceh province. A professional vet has now joined this team, which means they are now fully operational and able to manage human-orangutan conflicts on the west coast of Aceh (Singkil, Subulussalam, West Aceh, and Southwest Aceh). Both HOCRU teams have the same objectives, which is to help and protect both orangutans and the communities living within the orangutans' home territory. Occasionally both teams support and collaborate with each other.

 

The team is now expanding its activities to include regular monitoring, awareness raisingand facilitating communities in developing local regulations (in Aceh known as qanun) at village level. These local regulations are aiming to ensure orangutan protection and Human-Orangutan Conflict (HOC) mitigation.

 

Since 2012 to 25th October 2017, HOCRU team has rescued 132 orangutans in which 88 of them were translocated from isolated area and 44 were confiscated from illegal owning and pet trade.

 

Below is the rescue data August – October 2017.

 

August

Illegally kept

Confiscation

East Aceh, Aceh

Male, 5

Quarantine in SOCP’s

         September

Illegally kept

Confiscation

Langsa, Aceh

Female, 4

Quarantine in SOCP’s

October

Illegally kept

Confiscation

South Aceh

Infant female, 2

Quarantine in SOCP’s

Isolated

Translocated

North Sumatra

Female, 25

Translocated

 

As well as helping new locals laws to be enacted, such as South Aceh's Regent Decree No. 348 of year 2017 about Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation, the team have also been involved in publicising these new laws through a series of workshops, so that locals are aware of the changes and implications for them. The team know that working with local people to tackle the problem is part of the solution.

As I am writing this report, I have just seen news of a news rescue: February 155h 2018 -the HOCRU team worked together with Prof. Suci Utami and Aceh Wildlife Authority to rescue and confiscate a 2 year old orangutan baby in Suka Rimbun village, Ketambe subdistrict - Southeast Aceh district of Aceh province. The information was received from Prof. Suci who is conducting theoutreach programme for local children within the area. This orangutan baby is named Dilan and claimed to be found in a local residence, motherless. Sadly, Dilan was malnourished and stressed. He has been moved to the SOCP Rehabilitation Centre for evaluation and support. As an orphan, it's likely it will take some time for him to learn what fruit he can east and how to make a nest and climb trees. However, one day, Dilan will be able to breath the fresh air in the wild once again. 

Thank you to Syufra for providing the information for this report.

Dilan being rescued
Dilan being rescued
Map of all rescues 2017
Map of all rescues 2017

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Organization Information

Sumatran Orangutan Society

Location: Abingdon, Oxon - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @orangutansSOS
Project Leader:
Lucy Radford
Abingdon, Oxon United Kingdom
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