Welcome Home, Casey, Lesan & Mail!

Mt. Belah, Kehje Sewen Forest, April 24, 2012

The Release Team spent the night at the monitoring camp at Mount Belah last night, around 500 meters from the release site. It was raining all night. But thankfully, the rain had stopped this morning as we made the final release preparation. Then at 6.30 AM, the Release Team returned to the release site. Casey, Lesan and Mail looked well rested, calm and ready. As if they knew, they were soon free!

At exactly 8 AM, BOSF CEO and also the President Director of RHOI Dr. Jamartin Sihite opened Casey’s enclosure.

Dr. Jamartin Sihite opened Casey's acclimatization enclosure

Casey was not sure at first and spent her first few moments of freedom just climbing and playing around her enclosure. But soon enough, she realized there were so many trees around her. Tall trees! Real forest!

At first, Casey was just playing around her enclosure

And through one of the ropes that were used to secure her enclosure, she headed to a nearest tree and started to climb, before finally settling on one of the branches high above, waiting for her two friends to be released, too.

Casey was using one of the ropes to get to a nearest tree

Casey started climbing a tree!

Casey waited for Lesan and Mail

Lesan & Mail bolted out and headed to a tree

Afterwards, we moved to the next enclosure where both Lesan and Mail were anxiously waiting. They had seen Casey and for sure had realized what was going on. This enclosure was opened by veterinarian Citra, who had been dreaming to return her beloved orangutans to the forest for 9 years.

Today, her dream became reality. She opened the enclosure, and in tears of joy, witnessed Lesan and Mail quickly bolted out and climbed a tree together. Not long after, Lesan and Mail joined Casey and the three of them were seen swinging happily in the forest canopy.

The Release Team was photographed together after the release

Welcome home, Casey, Lesan and Mail! The Kehje Sewen Forest is honored to have you. May you have a long and happy lives here. We will watch over you. Always.

Here are their sweet release moments!

Welcome Home Casey, Lesan and Mail! from BOS Foundation on Vimeo.

Moving Casey, Lesan & Mail into Acclimatization Enclosures

Mt. Belah, Kehje Sewen Forest, April 23, 2012

On April 23, 2012, the morning sun was a cue for us to start moving. At 6:30 AM, Casey, Lesan and Mail were loaded onto our rented Hi-Line pickup trucks belonging to the local Pelangsiran residents. And together with the Release Team, they headed to Mount Belah, a location name for our Orangutan Conservation Area in the Kehje Sewen Forest. This site was going to be Casey’s, Lesan’s and Mail’s new home.

Bringing Casey, Lesan & Mail across the river on pickup trucks

Mt. Belah is around 1.5 kilometers from Camp 103, our main camp in Kehje Sewen Forest. After riding the pickup trucks for around 30 minutes, we had to cross a river, which was swollen the day before (arrival day) due to heavy rain, forcing us and the orangutans to retreat to Camp 103. But this morning, water levels had dropped down to normal and our pickup trucks had no problem crossing it. We stopped on the other side of the river, right at the river’s edge. We had arrived on the outer rim of the conservation area.

But the journey was not over yet. The release site was 700 meters inside the forest of Mt. Belah. The team had to carry the three transport cages, crossing rivers five times, on foot.

The team was preparing to carry the transport cages of Casey, Lesan & Mail into the release site inside the forest of Mt. Belah

It wasn’t easy. Each of these orangutans weighed between 20 – 30 kilograms. So we had to stop several times to rest and catch our breaths.

We had to stop several times along the way because the orangutans and the cages were quite heavy!

Moving the orangutans into acclimatization enclosures in the forest of Mt. Belah

Finally, we arrived at the release site. Here, we had constructed two spacious acclimatization enclosures – one for Lesan and Mail; and another one for Casey. Because these three youngsters were rehabilitants, we needed to put them in these enclosures for a day or two to give them time to adjust (acclimatize) with the new surroundings and to give us time to observe them and ensure that they were indeed ready to be released.

Just in case you’re wondering, “rehabilitants” mean orangutans whom we (humans) raise and train (rehabilitate) since they are very young in order to be wild, instead of wild ones who are raised in the forest by their mothers.

Casey in her acclimatization enclosure

So at around 8 AM this morning, Casey, Lesan and Mail were transferred from the transport cages into these acclimatization enclosures. They will spend a night here, under the watchful eyes of our Medical Team and Monitoring Team. If things go according well, we will release them tomorrow, on April 24, 2012.

Casey, Lesan & Mail Arrived in Kehje Sewen!

Camp 103, Kehje Sewen Forest, April 22, 2012

Indonesian Air Force helicopter landed at Camp 103, Kehje Sewen Forest in heavy rain

The helicopter carrying Casey, Lesan and Mail flew over at Camp 103 at 1:50 PM, right on schedule. However, it was welcomed by heavy rain and strong wind. The helicopter from the Indonesian Air Force circled the area for a while. We started to worry, thinking it wouldn’t land in this weather. But at exactly 2 PM, it hovered over the helipad and landed safely at Camp 103, Kehje Sewen Forest.
 

Casey, Lesan and Mail are almost home. But for tonight, they will have to stay at Camp 103 with us. In order to bring them to their acclimatization cages in Mount Belah – our orangutan conservation area – we have to cross a river, which is raging with strong currents and high water levels carrying mud from upriver. It’s impossible to cross. We will have to wait until morning comes. Casey, Lesan and Mail are healthy, though. And they are being checked and fed and looked after by our team every hour or so. Hopefully, Mother Earth will be friendly tomorrow. Happy Earth Day from Casey, Lesan, Mail and all of us here in Kehje Sewen Forest!

We’ll update you again tomorrow.

The Departure of Casey, Lesan and Mail to Kehje Sewen Forest

Finally!

Casey, Lesan and Mail were departed to Kehje Sewen forest, at 12.40 pm. After the ceremony attended by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affair, the Minister of Forestry and the Minister of Environment, the three orangutan were loaded onto the helicopter and ready to fly back to their ‘home’.

All Release Team taking picture with The Ministers

The helicopter leaving for Kehje Sewen!

.

[Press Release] BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari Releases 3 Rehabilitated Orangutans

 

In conjunction with the observance of Earth Day, the BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan will release three rehabilitated orangutans after nearly a decade of being unable to do so due to continuing challenges in finding a suitable and secure habitat for orangutans.

 

Samboja, East Kalimantan, April 22, 2012. This release involves the collaboration of all stakeholders, including the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Forestry, the Ministry of Environment, the Provincial Government of East Kalimantan, the Regency Governments of Kutai Kartanegara and East Kutai, as well as the Conservation and Natural Resources Authority of East Kalimantan (BKSDA East Kalimantan) and the people of Kutai Kartanegara and East Kutai.

The three orangutans – namely Casey, Lesan and Mail – will be taken by helicopter from the East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Samboja Lestari to the Kehje Sewen Forest in East Kutai Regency on April 22, 2012 and will be released on April 24, 2012 after spending a required two-day adjustment period in acclimatization enclosures.

The Kehje Sewen Forest is an ecosystem restoration concession (ERC) managed by PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), a company that was established by the BOS Foundation on April 21, 2009. As a non-profit organization under Indonesian law, the BOS Foundation is not legally allowed to acquire ERCs, thus RHOI was created as a vehicle for such acquisitions. This ERC permit gives us the right to use and manage a certain piece of land – in our case a forest – which we desperately need to release rehabilitated orangutans from the BOS Foundation Orangutan Reintroduction Center in East Kalimantan. We still need to secure more land in Central Kalimantan also for our ongoing release program there.

In addition to funds from the BOS Foundation’s overseas partners – Vier Pfoten, BOS Australia and BOS Switzerland – this release is also generously supported by the Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), EcoDynamics and Bank Central Asia (BCA), demonstrating that a positive synergy between the private sector and conservation is indeed attainable to achieve a sustainable future. In supporting the release operation, KPC and BCA both said that they are pleased to be partnering with the BOS Foundation, providing logistical support for the safe release of these orangutans. The implementation of this release is also supported by the availability of the transportation for the orangutans by Indonesian Air Force.

On behalf of the Government of Indonesia, the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa accompanied by the Minister of Forestry and the Minister of Environment will officially accept the orangutans and send them on the journey home to the forest. “I’m very proud and very happy to see our iconic orangutans will finally be returned to the forest where they belong. And I’m especially pleased to witness that companies like KPC and BCA are demonstrating a willingness to contribute to biodiversity conservation,” said Mr. Rajasa. He also hopes that a greater collaboration between NGOs and businesses will take place in the near future in order to explore ways to reduce harmful environmental trade-offs and identify more effective and sustainable management practices.

Joining Hatta Rajasa on this momentous day are the Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan, the Minister of Environment Prof. Dr. Balthasar Kambuaya, MBA, the Governor of East Kalimantan Dr. H. Awang Faroek Ishak, the Regent of Rita Widyasari and the Regent of East Kutai Isran Noor.

In line with the statement from Mr. Rajasa, the Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan said he will request the private sectors to participate in orangutan releases.  “The orangutans release in East Kalimantan will be conducted in a restoration area. Restoration is a government policy to support environmental improvements and now we can see how ERCs are used as a restoration of the release area. In future we hope that local governments are also supporting the restoration of forest policy development in each region. We realized that the activity of rehabilitating orangutans is very costly. For the funding, I will be at the frontline to solicit the private sectors to become the sponsors of the orangutan releases. It’s not fair if we reject the help from them. That’s why we must work together to find solutions,” said Mr. Hasan.

Minister of Forestry continued to explain that orangutans are an effective seed disperser. An orangutan can travel up to 20 kilometers a day and while they travel, they disperse seeds all over the forest through their feces. They also open forest canopy every time they build nests, allowing the sun to penetrate to the forest floor, which in turn triggering the seeds to grow. “So you can see that orangutans play an important role as forest regenerators. That’s why we call them “the umbrella species”. A healthy population of orangutans will usually create a healthy forest and a complete and balanced ecosystem,” Zulkifli Hasan concluded. The Ministry of Forestry together with the Minister of Environment and the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs are also taking this opportunity on Earth Day to support Samboja Lestari’s land rehabilitation program by planting trees.

The Minster of Environment Prof. Kambuaya also said, “It is time that all stakeholders really recognize the importance of orangutans and why we are protecting them. While the world is struggling to find a long-term solution to global warming and climate change, and using the polar bear as the icon to this problem, we should realize that Indonesia can provide a solution by protecting the orangutans and their habitat, the forest.”

Addressing the issue of habitat requirements for orangutans, Mr. Ishak stated, “The effort and the provision of land is part of the commitment of the Provincial Government, in cooperation with the relevant regency governments. Additional efforts are being conducted jointly between us, in favor of allocating forest to ecosystem restoration concessions which can be used as a place to release orangutans, especially those orangutans situated at Samboja Lestari. This activity is in line with Kaltim Green.”

Moreover, orangutan conservation efforts require high commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders in the enforcement of laws on the protection of orangutans. “If it is unavoidable, do not act alone, because it is breaking the law. Please cooperate with the BOS Foundation and Conservation and Natural Resources Authority of East Kalimantan (BKSDA East Kalimantan) to work together and find solutions,” adds the Governor.

Orangutan release operations will not stop here. On May 1, 2012, Samboja Lestari plans to release three more orangutans. “There are still around 160 orangutans at the East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Samboja Lestari who are waiting to be released back to their natural habitat and around 70 more who cannot be released due to illness or injury, waiting for us to find and allocate an area for sanctuary so they, too, can live in the wild. If there is more suitable land available, the orangutan release efforts could be accomplished by 2015, according to the goals set in the Indonesia Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 20072017,” said Aschta Boestani Tajudin, Samboja Lestari’s Program Manager. The Action Plan was proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in the Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007, which states that all orangutans in rehabilitation centers should be returned to their habitat not later than 2015.

General Director PHKA Ministry of Forestry added, “All of the healthy and able orangutans in rehabilitation centers should be returned to their natural habitat at the latest by 2015.  This release operation will be continued until all the orangutans in rehabilitation centers are released.”

“After the release of these three orangutans, in the beginning of May, the BOS Foundation will release three more from Samboja Lestari. This should be supported with the availability of a viable forest. The role and support of our Country’s Government, especially the Regency Government of East Kutai becomes very important in this matter,” Dr. Jamartin Sihite, Director of the BOS Foundation said.

Dr. Sihite added, “These first releases in East Kalimantan have been carefully planned in coordination with all stakeholders and in line with IUCN and national guidelines. Our detailed planning process and the release of these first three orangutans will lay strong foundations for our ongoing release program over the next few years. This release operation is a first step after nearly 10 years during which we can not release the orangutans.”

This release operation is also supported by three media partners; Metro TV, Media Indonesia and Antara Photo, which are committed to raise the public awareness about orangutan conservations and encourage concrete actions from all stakeholders

 Contacts:

  • Rini Sucahyo

Communications Specialist

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

Email: rini@orangutan.or.id

HP: 08111.800.741

  • Ajeng Ika Nugraheni

Communications Officer

PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia

Email: ajeng@orangutan.or.id

HP: 0812.8613.1319

***************** 

Editor’s Note:

ABOUT BOS FOUNDATION

Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) is an Indonesian non-profit organization based in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, which is committed to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce Borneo orangutans to their natural habitat, as well as educating local communities and increasing public awareness about the conservation of orangutans.

Established since 1991, BOSF has partnered closely with the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia and are supported by international donors, as well as other organizations. BOSF is currently headed by Prof. Dr. Bungaran Saragih as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. For more information, visit www.orangutan.or.id.

The Release Candidates are Ready

For the past two days, our documentation team had been collecting photos of the release candidates. Casey, Lesan and Mail look so much ready to return to their ‘home’. On April 22, 2012, they will fly to Kehje Sewen forest.

Casey

Mail

Lesan

All photos taken by: Cassandra Niki

Preparation in Kehje Sewen

Standing (left to right): Signe, Gonda, Ajeng, Tyo, Lulu, Iwan
Sitting (left to right): Jamartin, a cook from Jabdan, a cook from Jabdan, Jacqui, Juling

Almost a month ago, on March 19, 2012, Dr. Jamartin Sihite (the CEO of BOSF Foundation) accompanied by Jacqui Sunderland-Groves (Senior Advisor to the CEO), Signe Preuschoft (Scientific Advisor), Eko Prasetyo (Post-Release Monitoring Coordinator for Rehabilitated Orangutans) and Ajeng Ika Nugraheni (Communications Officer) travelled to Kehje Sewen (KJ7) Forest to check progress and preparations for the upcoming release operation.

Cars that we use to travel from Muara Wahau to Pelangsiran

The KJ7 Forest is very remote and perfect for orangutan reintroductions, however getting there is a challenge! After flying from Jakarta to Balikpapan, the team continued the road trip to Pelangsiran, which takes a minimum of 22 hours, dependant on road conditions. Pelangsiran is the ‘gateway’ to KJ7 Forest which can be reached by crossing the Telen River using a traditional sling (flying fox).

Arriving in Pelangsiran, the 'gateway' to Kehje Sewen Forest

Finally arriving at 3.00 pm on 20 April, unfortunately the only car available to transport them the last 18 km to Camp 103 had broken down. Using the skills of the local mechanics and drivers, the vehicle was repaired and the team set off at 6.00 pm. The road between Pelangsiran and our Camp 103 is extremely poor; it is a single track dirt road with ravines on one side, and steep hills on the other side – excellent driving skills are needed to navigate this track and reach Camp 103 safe and sound!

Alternatively you can walk but this takes 6 or 7 hours. During this trip and within 10 minutes of leaving Pelangsiran the vehicle became stranded in the middle of a river. The driver walked back to Pelangsiran and returned with a mobile winch and after an hour and with the help from our team, the vehicle was towed back to the river edge and the team were able to continue their journey reaching Camp 103 at almost midnight. The joys of working in remote forests!

Camp 103, our base camp in the forest

RHOI signboards at Camp 103

Camp 103 is the base camp for RHOI’s monitoring team assigned to manage KJ7 area. The team is led by Gondanisam, as the Camp Manager with Eko Prasetyo and Sidahin Bangun as his Assistants. Over the past months, the field team have been busy putting into place all the logistics and infrastructure needed to receive the orangutans, including establishing transects and collecting phenology data, repairing the camp, preparing the helipad and establishing good relationships with the local communities surrounding the area.

Checking the helipad

Finding and collecting data on fruits found in the forest is part of our team's responsibility to ensure food availability for orangutans

On the 21st and once the team had a few hours sleep, they spent the morning checking the helipad and other infrastructure, before trekking to Gunung Belah to review and decide on the location in the forest for the acclimatization enclosure and forest flying camp (basic camp facility). This smaller camp facility will help us more efficiently monitor the orangutans once released.

Following an evening meeting with all the monitoring and camp staff, our team headed back to Balikpapan on the Saturday morning to  coordinate all the forest activities with Aschta Tadjudin, the Program Manager of Samboja Lestari and also check the orangutan transport cages.

People from Pelangsiran bring the pieces of the cages to the agreed area, crossing the river.

Two weeks after the team returned to Jakarta, Gondanisam called in with an update that the acclimatization enclosure had been successfully constructed at the agreed location in the forest. This enclosure is a temporary facility where the orangutans will be able to spend 1-2 days recovering from their journey and begin to familiarize themselves with their new environment before their release. This facility can also be used if any of our orangutans are injured or ill and need veterinary treatment.

The Acclimatization cages is done!

Planning and preparations are still underway  and  several of our teams have already begun their journey to the KJ7 Forest. Next Wednesday, April 18, 2012, the documentation team and some journalists will also depart from Jakarta to cover the release operation.

See you all soon in the beautiful forest where the trees stand up high in the sky and the clear rocky-river flows.

Meet the Release Team: Sidahin Bangun

Monitoring Coordinator for Wild Orangutans

Dahin originated from a tiny village of Lau Rakit in Deli Serdang Regency, North Sumatra. Just like Tyo, Dahin is also a biologist with a degree from the North Sumatra University in Medan. After he graduated, Dahin had been involved in various environmental researches. Working as an environmental consultant from 2008, Dahin did a lot of environmental impact assessments for many companies, including oil palm companies, road contractors, hotels, hospitals and real estates.

Then fate brought him to the Ketambe Research Station in the Leuser National Park, where he met Gondanisam (now RHOI Camp Manager for the Kehje Sewen Forest) and worked with him to monitor wild orangutans. Gonda at that time was the manager of the research station. Seeing Dahin’s high potential, dedication, hard work and his limitless eagerness to learn, Gonda took Dahin under his wings, teaching him about birds and plants, as well as primates and other wildlife in the forest.

For Dahin, his time in Ketambe provided him with one of the most valuable experiences in his life, earning him a position in PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI) as the Monitoring Coordinator for Wild Orangutans in the Kehje Sewen Forest. Dahin’s main responsibility is to track, observe and collect data on rescued wild orangutans who are released in the Kehje Sewen Forest.

Unlike most Batak Karo people – the ethnicity of North Sumatran people – who are known for being flamboyant and a bit loud, Dahin is very quiet, soft-spoken and well mannered. But once you get to know him, he is actually talkative, funny and mischievous, just like the orangutans whom he monitors. Dahin can hardly wait to see the Kehje Sewen Forest filled with these gentle apes.

Meet the Release Team: Eko Prasetyo

Post-Release Monitoring Coordinator for Rehabilitated Orangutans

Eko Prasetyo or simply known as Tyo earned his degree in Biology from the Syarif Hidayatullah National Islamic University in Jakarta. Originally from Nganjuk, East Java, Tyo was born on August 30, 1986. Although he is still young, Tyo has extensive field experiences. From 2005 to 2007, when he was involved in several inventory activities in Java, inventorying plants and also various animals, including inventory invertebrate and vertebrate species, amphibians and rodents. Tyo was also part of the bird monitoring team in Dua Island in Banten Province.

In 2008, Tyo accepted an internship from the Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta, working for the Schmutzer Primate Center, which is one of the largest primate houses in the world. This was Tyo’s first introduction to primates, including gorillas, chimpanzees and, of course, orangutans. Since then, he had participated in various primates’ conservation projects, including primates monitoring in Muara Angke Nature Reserve, Jakarta and in Gede-Pangrango National Park, West Java.

With the orangutans, it was love at first sight. These iconic apes stole Tyo’s heart. So in 2008, he decided to join the Tuanan Orangutan Research Station in Central Kalimantan, researching the behaviors of wild orangutans. His knowledge and well-developed skills obtained in Tuanan become a valuable asset as he now embarks on his newest adventure with orangutans as the Post-Release Monitoring Coordinator of PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI). Tyo will lead the Monitoring Team to track and keep a close eye on all of our rehabilitated orangutans and ensure that they can adapt in their new home in the Kehje Sewen Forest.