A baby orangutan became the first resident of a new sanctuary in Western Borneo, just days after it was opened by International Animal Rescue. The orphan was found on the estate of a palm-oil plantation by a local villager.
The IAR team and the local Nature Conservancy Agency (BKSDA Kalimantan Barat) rescued the young orangutan on February 16. He was immediately taken to the new facility where the medical team determined him to be approximately 18-months-old. The infant is in good health, although he is very underweight and has a distended stomach.
The property where the orangutan was found is owned by PT Kayong Agro Lestari (KAL) whose parent company PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya (ANJ) runs four palm-oil plantations in Indonesia. The estate sits on part of a forest that was once home to many orangutans. This is the sixth baby rescued from the PT KAL plantation area.
IAR rescuers named the baby, Tribun, or Tri for short, in honor of a news reporter who went with the team to recover the orangutan. The reporter works for a leading news media company called, The Tribun Pontianank.
Dr. Rondang Siregar, an Orangutan Reintroduction Specialist and Scientific Advisor to IAR Indonesia, said, “Tribun’s behaviour is not wild. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of people and this indicates that he has been kept in captivity for some period of time. In fact it is possible that he was kept by workers of the plantation because the reports provided by local villagers indicate that they had seen this baby orangutan within the surroundings of the PT KAL staff shelter.”
Dr. Rondang continued “We need to make some further observations and carry out medical tests in order to evaluate Tribun’s health before he’s moved to the forest school and joins the rehabilitation process along with the other baby orangutans.”
It is the goal of IAR to return as many orphaned orangutans back into the wild as possible. The forest school is designed to teach them the survival skills normally taught by their mothers over a period of years.
“Orangutans live with their mothers until the age of 5-7 years old and must learn all their survival skills from them. As Tribun no longer has his mother, who was probably killed when he was snatched from her, we will have to teach this orangutan the skills to survive in the wild before he can be released,”¯ said Dr. Rondang.
Alan Knight, CEO of IAR explained that when Tri is ready to live on his own, it will be harder to find a suitable release site because so much of the orangutan’s natural habitat has been converted into palm oil plantations.
“It is frustrating that these companies cause so much damage and are responsible for the displacement of so many orangutans, but have never taken responsibility for the damage that their business activities have caused to the environment,”¯ said Knight.
Currently, IAR cares for 57 homeless orangutans at their emergency rescue center in Western Borneo. The new rehab facility will house up to 100 animals. In its final stages, it will include a complete veterinary clinic, a baby school that will pair orphaned infants with adult orangutans, a forested adult enclosure and a forested baby enclosure that will teach survival skills. There is also an indoor and outdoor living and play area for babies. Each step of the project has been funded through private donations.
In December, IAR released a young orangutan named Pelansi back into the wild after he was rescued from a snare. Pelansi’s arm had to be amputated, but the orangutan was successfully retrained to survive in the wild with one arm.
Photo Credit: InternationalAnimalRescue