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
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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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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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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