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
Released into the Gunung Leuser National Park
Released into the Gunung Leuser National Park

Review of 2016

What have you helped us achieve so far?

In 2016, our two HOCRU (Human Orangutan Conflict Response Unit) teams rescued 28 Sumatran Orangutans in and around the Leuser Ecosystem, located in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces of Indonesia. 16 were rescued from agriculture plantations (mostly oil palm) or very small patches of remaining forests. 12 others were confiscated from illegal wildlife trade and trafficking.

Additionally, our teams spent time traning local communities in various methods of avoiding human-orangutan conflict and visited several schools in the area to raise awareness on the important role of orangutans in re-seeding the forest.

And the first 2 months of 2017 reminded us quickly that our action on the ground is needed more than ever.

On 21 and 22 of January, one of our HOCRU teams, in collaboration with the BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency) rescued a mother (25 years old) and her baby (1 year old) who were stranded in a tiny patch of forest lost in the middle of oil palm plantations. In such conditions, the life of the orangutans is at stake as they represent an easy prey for poachers, who usually kill the mother in order to take and sell the baby to the illegal wildlife market. Hence our team intervened quickly and released the mother and her baby in the Gunung Leuser National Park after checking their health.

A few days later, on February 2nd, an adult female orangutan (around 25 years old) was rescued by a team composed of HOCRU, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) and BKSDA (Nature Conservation Agency) in North Sumatra. This innocent orangutan was found with various injuries and was very weak, probably due to abuse by her “owner” to “tame” her as she was most probably recently taken from the wild. He called BKSDA after keeping the female for 1 week but didn’t disclose where and how he bought or got her. The orangutan was then transferred to SOCP quarantine near Medan to recover.

Meanwhile the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) plans to revise its environmental standards and safeguards. We will have follow the negotiations closely and engage directly with the relevant stakeholders to push for stricter standards, controls and sanctions towards the companies who destroy orangutan habitat and threaten their survival. Increased consumer pressure from people in the west like you does pay dividends. HSBC have recently announced a more stringent “No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy with regards to funding palm oil companies. This followed on from a Greenpeace report into their existing funding practices which generated considerable media coverage and consumer outrage.

2017 will be another challenging year, and SOS and its partners are ready to tackle all the issues we will encounter. Our priorities this year will be to continue rescuing all orangutans in danger or captivity, pushing for prosecution of offenders and campaigning against companies who violate environmental safeguards.

Thank you for your invaluable support of this vital work. 

Fabien Garnier, Conservation Programme Manager

Sumatran Orangutan Society

info@orangutans-sos.org

 

PS: If you want to ensure the protection of the unique and special orangutan for the long-term, might you be able to give monthly?

injured female
injured female
open wounds
open wounds
Gunung Leuser National Park from a drone
Gunung Leuser National Park from a drone

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evacuation from forest destroyed by PT Sisirau
evacuation from forest destroyed by PT Sisirau

We are still having to rescue Sumatran orangutans from danger at an alarming rate. In fact, if anything, demand for the services of our rescue team are growing., But although on the surface this sounds like bad news, we actually see it as evidence that calling our rescue team has become a first port of call, instead of someone shooting an orangutan.

 Unfortunately the destruction of their habitat is still ongoing and the more orangutans come into contact with humans, the more likely they are to suffer. If you depend on your small field to provide enough food to feed your family, it’s not surprising you get cross when an orangutans comes and eats half your crop. For this reason, as well as rescuing the orangutans in question and releasing them again further from human populations, we also work with the villagers to teach them techniques for scaring the orangutans away, rather than harming them.

There has been significant coverage in the media of the impact of large-scale palm oil plantations on orangutan habitat. We are delighted to be able to report that more than four years after we made an official complaint against one of its members, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has this month confirmed the expulsion of PT Ibris Palm, whose subsidiary company PT Sisirau is responsible for the destruction of orangutan habitat in Sumatra. The RSPO is a body which regulates certified sustainable palm oil, aiming to limit the negative environmental and social impacts of the industry.

In 2012, seven orangutans were evacuated from an oil palm plantation managed by PT Sisirau in Aceh province, Sumatra. SOS filed a complaint with the RSPO, submitting evidence that the company had continued to bulldoze patches of forest even after being alerted to the presence of orangutans within the plantation.

To date the rescue team have rescued 110 orangutans from isolated forests and the illegal pet trade. Orangutan rescues and translocations carry extreme risks for the animals and people involved, and are only carried out as a last resort if orangutans are considered to be in danger of starvation, injury or death.

All seven orangutans that were evacuated from PT Sisirau's plantation in 2012 were safely released into the Leuser Ecosystem, a protected area and the last stronghold for the species. Thank you for making this vital work possible. It’s important though, that we try to prevent the problems occurring in the first place, which is why we also devote our resources to lobbying the law-enforcement agencies to enforce the laws. For this reason, the HOCRU team increased their visits to local communities and schools. They monitor orangutan habitat and population growth in villages adjacent to the Leuser Ecosystem, including educating local people about the vital part the orangutans play in maintaining the health of the forest.

You may be aware that Nov 29 is #GivingTuesday. On this day, any donations you make to our project via GlobalGiving will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Please give if you can and help us to provide a safe future for these increadible creatures.

baby screaming in terror in PT Sisirau plantation
baby screaming in terror in PT Sisirau plantation

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An adult male orangutan was trapped in  farmlands
An adult male orangutan was trapped in farmlands

Sumatran lowland rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate, and unfortunately the Leuser Ecosystem, the last stronghold of the Sumatran orangutan, is not spared from this destruction.

The expansion of farmlands, especially oil palm plantations, continuous forest and national park encroachment by smallholder farmers, the development of roads and other infrastructure, all lead to the disappearance of this beautiful species' home, making it more vulnerable to humans and extinction every day. But thanks to your wonderful support, orangutans have a lifeline: the Human Orangutan Conflict Response Units!

Since the end of July, our HOCRU teams in Aceh and North Sumatra provinces rescued and assisted 8 Sumatran orangutans (3 babies, 1 female and 4 males). The 4 males had been found in community farmland near the shrinking rainforests. The loss of their habitat brings an increasing number of orangutan near human settlements and agricultural land where they are in danger of human attacks, air riffles shots or captivity - the fate of the 2 babies and 1 female our HOCRU teams confiscated from villagers, along with 6 slow lorises, 2 siamangs and 2 gibbons.

Awareness and law enforcement are also key priorities to save the Sumatran orangutan so our HOCRU teams multiplied their interventions among local communities and schools. While conducting orangutan habitat and population surveys in 8 villages, HOCRU members play a vital role in sensitizing villagers, local authorities and students (440 during the past 3 months!) to the role of forests and biodiversity.

Finally, to prepare new orangutan conservationists and veterinarians as part of their apprectinceship programme, the HOCRU teams have selected an internship fellow student and participated in the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG) 2016 Workshop held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Thank you for your invaluable support of this vital work. Please consider setting up a monthly donation or sharing this project with your friends and family.

A school visit
A school visit
A baby orangutan confiscated from the pet trade
A baby orangutan confiscated from the pet trade
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The two HOCRU teams
The two HOCRU teams

The Sumatran Orangutan Society is really pleased to introduce you to our new HOCRU team who have been operating in South Aceh since April this year, having been trained by our first HOCRU team based in Medan! The HOCRU programme covers a huge area, across the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, and with increasing reports of orangutans in danger, the new team are vital in safeguarding wild orangutans. We would like to extend our gratitude to all our supporters.

In just 3 months, our 2 HOCRU teams have confiscated 4 orangutans from the illegal pet trade and evacuated 5 from conflict situations, with the collaboration of the Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA), local community members and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

Both teams are also involved in community interviews about human-orangutan conflict, monitoring isolated orangutans, and surveying potential release sites.

In May, a typical case of an illegally kept orangutan rescue reminded us how critically endangered this species is, and what a vital lifeline the rescue teams are. On May 30th, we rescued a very large male orangutan locked in a small cage in an army complex in Kabanjahe, North Sumatra. The orangutan, estimated to be 20 years old and named Krismon by the 'owner', was taken from his mother in 1997 (she would undoubtedly have been killed during his capture) and given to an army commander who then kept Krismon to his home as a pet. 

When Krismon grew into an adult male orangutan, the owner locked him in a small cage. The team has persistently investigated this case since the end of last year and finally found Krismon being kept in terrible conditions. Surprisingly, Krismon was found in good health and has been handed over to the SOCP care centre in North Sumatra. He is now undergoing thorough health checks - it is not known at this stage whether he will be able to return to the forest, after almost 20 years in captivity.

“He has never learnt to make a nest, or to climb high trees to forage, but now he is at the quarantine centre, he may learn quickly, so you never know,” Hadisiswoyo said. “If not, he will be able to go to the new Orangutan Haven being created by the SOCP. It would still be a wonderful life for him compared to what he has suffered so far.”

Thank you for your invaluable support of this vital work. Please consider setting up a monthly donation or sharing this project with your friends and family. 

Tree climbing training
Tree climbing training
Female orangutan near a plantation
Female orangutan near a plantation
Monitoring isolated orangutans
Monitoring isolated orangutans
Krismon in the cage where he was kept for 20 years
Krismon in the cage where he was kept for 20 years
A brighter future for Krismon
A brighter future for Krismon
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The vets prepare Pongky for surgery
The vets prepare Pongky for surgery

Back in February, we shared the fantastic news that Pongky, a Sumatran orangutan who had been kept behind bars for over a decade, was finally on his way to freedom. We wanted to share the latest update about Pongky with our wonderful supporters who have helped him have a second chance at freedom:

Pongky’s first steps on the road to freedom

The orangutan care centre is located in the small village of Batu Mbelin, near Medan in North Sumatra, and is currently caring for just under 50 orangutans, all confiscated former illegal pets. All orangutans arriving at the centre must complete a mandatory initial quarantine period and pass full medical health checks before entering the rehabilitation programme, which prepares them for eventual return to the wild.

Pongky has now had time to adjust to his new surroundings, and has undergone a complete health check. He is free of Tuberculosis and Hepatitis – diseases which captive primates sometimes contract from their human captors and ‘owners’, and which would have prevented Pongky from being released back to the wild due to the risk of infecting other wild orangutans.  Unfortunately, Pongky had sustained severe damage to one of his eyes during his years in captivity. Having consulted with expert ophthalmologists, it was decided that his right eye could not be saved, and given that it was likely causing him chronic pain and discomfort, a few days ago the specialist vets from OIC, SOCP and OVAID joined forces to perform an operation to remove it.

The surgery was a complete success, and Pongky is healing rapidly. Currently, Pongky is on antibiotics and painkillers, in order to prevent infection and keep him comfortable. In order to keep the surgical site as clean as possible, Pongky rotates cages each day, and each unit is fully bleached and scrubbed daily. He is given extra enrichment each day in order to keep him busy, and the care staff report that he is especially enjoying making nests out of blankets while he heals! 

 

What next for Pongky?

Pongky will be given a month to fully heal from the surgery, and an additional month in order to ensure that his vision is normal. During May, the SOCP team will also begin to prepare him for reintroduction, which will include changing his diet, such as by making it more vegetable and less fruit based, and more feedings throughout the day.

Pongky will then be taken to Jantho, a reintroduction site for ex-captive orangutans. There, he will begin the gradual process of being reintroduced to the forest – this process is unique for each orangutan, so it is uncertain at this stage how many days, weeks or months this might take. Pongky will be followed as he gets accustomed to his new surroundings, until he makes his way deep into the forest to find his own territory and live wild and free.

Since 2001 over 260 orangutans have been released at the edge of the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi province and in the Jantho Wildlife Reserve in Aceh Province. Not only will Pongky finally be granted his freedom, but he will also have the opportunity to contribute to a new, self-sustaining and genetically viable wild population of this Critically Endangered species.


Please help us send Pongky back to the wild

All donations made to this project will go towards our Pongky Appeal until we hit our target. We need to raise £3,500 (approx $5,000 USD) and at the time of writing, we are 42% of the way there!

Please donate whatever you can towards the costs of Pongky's care, recovery and release - despite the loss of his eye, he still has a chance to return to the wild.

Thank you to all our supporters who are making this possible. 

Pongky is sedated for the operation
Pongky is sedated for the operation
Pongky is healing well
Pongky is healing well

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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
$62,656 raised of $100,000 goal
 
1,201 donations
$37,344 to go
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