Meet the Release Team: Gondanisam

Kehje Sewen Forest Camp Manager

Born and raised in a sleepy town of Payakumbuh in West Sumatra in 1969, Gonda spent more than half of his life in Sumatra where he graduated in veterinary medicine in 1995 from Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh. After volunteering at a zoo in Medan for a couple of years, in 1998 Gonda joined the Southeast Asian chapter of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, working to ensure that plant and animal trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

For the next two years, this quiet man roamed Sumatra conducting bird surveys and leading investigations on trades of rhinos and elephants. In 2001, Gonda moved to Southeast Aceh where he managed the Ketambe Research Station of the Leuser International Foundation and was often trusted as trainer, coaching tourist guides about the basics of bird watching activities as well as tourism guidelines on orangutans and other big mammals in the Leuser National Park. In 2004, he was hired by WWF to conduct conservation corridor surveys at Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park and Kerumutan Wildlife Reserve.

Also in 2004, the avid bird watcher was introduced to the BOS Foundation for the first time as he joined the foundation’s biodiversity survey team to collect bird data in a swamp forest in Central Kalimantan. Gonda had since become a noted freelance surveyor and wildlife expert, assisting many organizations with survey techniques, data collection and wildlife population distribution. He finally relinquished his freelance status in 2011 to join PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI) as Camp Manager of the company’s first ecosystem restoration concession, the Kehje Sewen Forest.

Based deep in the serene primary rainforest of Kehje Sewen, Gonda has been hard at work preparing the forest for orangutans, including phenology surveys, setting up monitoring transects, building camp, helipad and habituation enclosures and more. Gonda is now excitedly waiting in the forest to finally witness the first orangutan release into this spectacular area. His long-awaited dream is about to become a sweet reality.


Meet the Release Team: Bernadus Ariyo Sambodo

RHOI Chief of Planning and Operation Bureau

After graduating from the Agricultural Institute of Bogor, Ariyo worked as an environmental consultant for quite a while. During his career as an environmental consultant, he had witnessed so much forest destruction and degradation. He was particularly sickened seeing forest inhabitants, including orangutans, become victimized.

So when the BOS Foundation established PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI) on April 21, 2009, Ariyo decided it was time to make a career change and contribute to the protection of forests in Indonesia. He applied and soon became one of the first to be recruited, where he was immediately trusted with the vital role as the Chief of Planning and Operation Bureau.

Since then, Ariyo has also helped establish community development activities in several villages around the Kehje Sewen Forest, particularly the indigenous communities of Ben Hes, Dea Beq and Deaq Lay. These three villages consist of traditional Dayak Wehea tribes who still solemnly honor their centuries-old cultures and rituals as part of their daily lives, which regulate not only how they interact with one another, but also with Mother Nature. Although administratively RHOI is the rightful owner of the ecosystem restoration concession permit for the next 60 years for the Kehje Sewen Forest, it culturally belongs to them. The Kehje Sewen Forest is considered the Dayak Wehea’s sacred forest.

Ariyo launched various socialization activities, aimed at introducing RHOI to these communities and socializing the importance of orangutans and their habitat. The residents of Ben Hes, Deaq Lay and Dea Beq warmly welcome RHOI activities in their forest although several challenges, specifically in Ben Hes, still exist. These villagers have openly admitted that they regret their decision to allow uncontrolled industrial development of oil palm plantations and mines in their area because now they experience flood all the time, especially in Deaq Lay. In Deaq Lay and in Dea Beq, water quality has also worsened significantly, causing less and less fish in the rivers. They are fully aware that RHOI activities will conserve their sanctified forest; hence their livelihood. So Ariyo and his team continue their socialization efforts and have now even started to offer several employment opportunities.

Ariyo hopes that in the near future RHOI will be able to prove that protecting a forest can also bring positive economic advantages to the communities around it. And he hopes the released orangutans will make the Kehje Sewen Forest flourish into a lush and majestic tropical rainforest for the benefits of all living creatures.

Meet the Release Team: Aldrianto Priadjati

RHOI Deputy Director of Conservation

Intimately known simply as Aldrin, an outgoing fun-loving man with a wicked sense of humor, few people know his significant expertise in forestry, as well as the prominent positions he has been trusted with over the past two decades.

Graduated with honors “cum laude” in forestry from the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Aldrin began his career as a staff for the Indonesian Forest Concessionaires Association (Asosiasi Pengusaha Hutan Indonesia / APHI). At that time, the Balikpapan Orangutan Society (former name of the BOS Foundation) had just barely started in Samboja, in a research station belonging to the Ministry of Forestry. Because the research station was mostly funded by APHI, it reserved the rights to send its staff to train in Samboja. So in 1993, Aldrin was sent to Samboja on an internship.

Even as an intern, Aldrin received several scholarship offers from the British Council and the Gadjah Mada University among many others. He turned them all down and decided to accept a scholarship from Dr. Willie Smits. Dr. Smits is one of the founders of the BOS Foundation. So Aldrin departed to the Netherlands to join the forestry program of the Wageningen University, where he earned his doctorate degree in 2002.

Upon his return to Indonesia, he rejoined his former employer, APHI, and was based in its headquarters in Jakarta. But Dr. Smits, again, offered him an opportunity he could not refuse. Thus in September 2003, Aldrin resigned from APHI and officially became the Land Rehabilitation Manager of the BOS Foundation, based in Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan. Not long after, Aldrin was promoted as the East Kalimantan Regional Manager, overseeing not only land but also animals, i.e. the orangutans. And in March 2005, he accepted the role of the Executive Director of the BOS Foundation until 2010.

Although his passion for orangutan conservation remains unchanged, in 2010, Aldrin finally went back to his root in forestry, taking the position as the Deputy Director of Conservation of PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), a company established by the BOS Foundation with the sole purpose of obtaining ecosystem restoration concessions for releasing orangutans. Aldrin hopes that all orangutans in the BOS Foundation rehabilitation centers will be returned to their natural habitat as soon as possible. “Because it has just been too long,” he said. And for that, Aldrin has been dedicating his time and his expertise to find more forested lands suitable for his beloved orangutans. “The orangutans must return home and we must start now,” he concluded.

Meet the Release Team: Signe Preuschoft

Scientific Advisor

Signe’s impressive list of achievements goes way back to mid 1990s when she started her dissertation in Zoology/Primatology at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands and continued her post-Doc studies at Yerkes Primate Center, Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S.A. Since then, for nearly a decade, Signe lectured zoology/primatology at various universities in the U.S.A. and in Austria and also held a position as the Scientific Director of Hope Chimpanzee Rehabilitation and Resocialisation Programme in Austria.

In 2007, an animal welfare organization, VIER PFOTEN (also known as Four Paws) established the Competence Center Apes and started to provide financial support for the BOS Foundation. And Signe has since been trusted to head the Center. Since 2009, Signe has been seconded to the BOS Foundation to help develop and optimize the orangutan reintroduction program at Samboja Lestari. She is now also the BOS Foundation Scientific Advisor.

As a daughter of a scientist dad with expertise in Physical Anthropology and Anatomy, Signe was inspired by her father to work with primates. She particularly loves the orangutans for many reasons. Orangutans are gentle, intelligent, naughty, strong, innocent and very brave. She also loves the fact that an orangutan has four hands and at least three of them are always holding on to something. She is fascinated to learn that they have excellent sense of smell and expressive eyes. And there are still many more reasons why Signe chooses to dedicate herself to the orangutans.

Signe hopes that in the near future orangutans in Indonesia will be efficiently protected in their natural habitat, thus rescues and rehabilitation processes will no longer be necessary. She also wishes to see a more effective synergy and collaboration between the BOS Foundation, other NGOs, government institutions and private sector to find and allocate other suitable and secure release areas for orangutans and, of course, a sustainable future for their habitat.

Meet the Release Team: Windi Kristianti

Communications Coordinator

Born in Sukabumi, West Java on September 6, 1983, Windi graduated from the School of Agriculture of Mulawarman University with a specialty degree in Soil Management. After that, Windi took a job as a teacher at a local junior high school in Samboja. She joined the BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari on June 16, 2008 as a Community Development staff, but was later reassigned to the Research and Development Division, handling all aspects of land rehabilitation. She was very happy with the reassignment because she could finally apply her knowledge in soil management.

Last year, there was opening in Samboja Lestari for the Communications Coordinator. Seeing Windi’s outgoing personality, positive attitude and her enormous willingness to learn, the management of Samboja Lestari decided to reassign Windi yet again, trusting her with the crucial role as the Communications Coordinator. At first, Windi honestly admitted that she was not happy with the decision. But as a true team player, Windi could not ignore the high spirit and determination of her coworkers in developing a more solid working environment in Samboja Lestari. Thus she decided to give communications her serious commitment and full dedication. And now, though she still has much to learn, she truly enjoys her new role.

Outside work, Windi loves to knit and is also a great dancer! This self-proclaimed coffee addict dreams to one day own a store that sells her homemade crafts and artwork. But for now, one of her dreams is about to come true, which is seeing the orangutans returned their rightful home in the forest.

Meet the Release Team: Imam Ghozali

Senior Technician

Also from Java, Imam worked at Meratus for 3 months before he joined Wanariset (former name of Samboja Lestari) on September 25, 1999. Just like Firman, he began his career with the BOS Foundation working at the Herbarium where he learned about the flora and fauna of Kalimantan. “Kalimantan is so rich with abundant natural resources,” he said. “But sadly, very few people actually care about conserving and protecting these resources.”

Imam enjoys working at the Foundation. He claims that working here is never monotonous. Things happen quickly and the dynamics keep changing. It is challenging but also fun!

Releasing orangutans is a moment that he has been waiting for. Along with Firman and the rest of Samboja Lestari’s technicians, he hopes that release activities will continue into the future on a regular basis. “We hope that we don’t have to wait too long between this release and the next one and the next one after that and so on,” said Imam and Firman almost at the same time. “Because as good as a life that we can provide for them in a cage, it is always better for them to live and die in the wild,” he added. Imam believes that orangutans would prefer to die with dignity in the forest than in a cage. Imam also hopes that the orangutans will not be merely a commercial object.

Born on August 27, 1970, Imam is married and has a son and a daughter. His family is very supportive of his work and his passion for conservation, especially for the orangutans. Imam is also an excellent “sepak takraw” player. The phrase ‘alive and kicking’ takes an entirely new meaning when transplanted into the world of sepak takraw. This traditional sport requires acrobatic skills and agility of the players. It is basically a ball game with the objective of keeping the ball in the air for as long as possible. But the ball is made from rattan! Then, forming a circle to kick, a player shoulders or heads the rattan ball to an opposing player. It is a dazzling display of acrobatic twists, turns and body swerves. Exciting! One of these days, we should all come to watch Imam play sepak takraw.

Meet the Release Team: Firman Abadi

Senior Technician

A father of a son and twin daughters, Firman never even thinks of moving back to Java, his homeland where he was born on June 6, 1973. “I would miss the forests too much,” he said. “There is no forest in Java that’s as beautiful and majestic as the forests here in Kalimantan,” he added.

Firman joined the BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari on December 8, 1996 as a staff for the Herbarium, which had given him a lot of knowledge on various plant species. Since then, the thought of finding work elsewhere has never crossed his mind, especially as he witnesses more and more coal mines mushrooming around Samboja. Outside the serene forest-covered sanctuary of Samboja Lestari, air quality has degraded significantly in the last decade or so. Thus for Firman, living and working in the rehabilitation center provide comfort, peace and also fresh air!

Once, Firman had the opportunity to monitor orangutans in Mount Beratus for four months. He liked it so much there and now he hopes that the Foundation would release orangutans in Mount Beratus, too.

Outside work, Firman often gets together with other employees to play soccer. He is a soccer-mania. Firman and his soccer team have even won a trophy for the BOS Foundation. Firman has a soft spot not only for orangutans, but also for all animals. Well, almost all. He admits he does not like dogs because apparently, dogs scare him.

Meet the Release Team: Wiwik Astutik

Animal Care Coordinator & Coordinator for Forest School 3

Originally from the cool mountainous town of Malang in East Java, Wiwik never really liked to be in crowded places. So eventually she decided to move to East Kalimantan following a family member who worked in an oil company at the Wain River. Not long after, Wiwik witnessed a forest fire around the river and was devastated when she saw firsthand that a lot of forest animals became victimized. That was the first time she felt her calling to save animals.

Wiwik believed that it was fate when a technician at the Wain River told her that Samboja Lestari (formerly known as Wanariset) had a job opening. Her calling was answered. She applied for the job and was accepted as a database clerk in 1999. But soon enough she knew she did not want to work with data. So she asked the management if she could work with the orangutans instead. Luckily, there was a shortage of babysitters and Wiwik soon joined the team as one of the babysitters.

During her years as a babysitter, Wiwik had the opportunity to help a scientist – Rafaella – research orangutans for 2 years. In return, Rafella offered Wiwik a scholarship to finish her undergraduate degree. Wiwik of course gladly accepted. She returned to her hometown in Malang where she completed her degree in Psychology from the Muhammadiyah University. She returned to the BOS Foundation in early 2008 and was appointed as the Enrichment Coordinator for un-releasable orangutans.

Seeing her remarkable dedication to the orangutans, the BOS Foundation has now trusted Wiwik as the Coordinator for Animal Care. She is also the Coordinator for Forest School 3, which is a facility for release candidates, similar to a university level for humans. It is Wiwik and her team who have been hard at work preparing Casey, Mail, Lesan, Hamzah, Abbie and Berlian for their final journey home to the forest.

Meet the Release Team: Agus Irwanto

Head Veterinarian at the BOS Foundation Reintroduction Centre at Samboja Lestari

Before he joined the BOS Foundation, Samboja Lestari’s leading veterinarian Agus Irwanto – whom we usually call Mas Agus – owned an independent clinic for domestic pets and large animals. He worked there for 1.5 years. The Yogyakarta native joined the BOS Foundation in June 2007 and was based in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan.

On March 23, 2010, vet Agus was sent to Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan on a “medical exchange program”. And in Samboja, he found a home. He officially became a veterinarian for Samboja Lestari on October 10, 2010.

In his spare time, Agus loves gardening, listening to music and reading. With his incredibly busy schedule of looking after the orangutans at Samboja Lestari, he has had less and less time for gardening and reading. But he still listens to his favorite music all the time. And when he does, he sings along and sometimes does a little dance, too! Agus is very good at imitating dances that he saw in video clips. In fact, one of the dance moves that he’s well known for is the “Umbrella Dance”. When you meet him, make sure to ask him to demonstrate it!

Meet the Release Team: Aschta Boestani Tajudin

Program Manager at the BOS Foundation Reintroduction Centre at Samboja Lestari

Started working in 1994, Aschta – together with Dr. Willie Smits, Dr. Joe Cuthberthson and Peter Karsono – was one of the founders of BOS. At that time, BOS stood for Balikpapan Orangutan Society. This society was the embryo of the BOS Foundation as we know it today. So when it comes to the two-decade journey of this foundation – the good times and the bad times – Aschta knows literally everything about it.

Aschta received her undergraduate degree in Biology from the National University in Jakarta. In 2001, she left the Foundation to continue her study at the Edinburgh University in Scotland. She returned to Indonesia in 2008. Since then, she had held other prestigious professional positions. She had worked as an NGO consultant in Indonesia, focusing on orangutan education. She was also an Assistant Senior Officer for the Wildlife Enforcement Networking (WEN), overseeing issues of illegal wildlife trade in 11 ASEAN countries. Aschta also has a lot of achievements under her belt, including the British Council Chevening Award, the MacArthur Foundation Award, the Brookfield Zoo Award, a research grant from the Edinburgh University and the Gibbon Foundation Award.

However after years of living abroad and subsequently holding various important positions, Aschta welcomed the opportunity to return to East Kalimantan in 2010 to lead Samboja Lestari. Raised in the capital of East Kalimantan, Samarinda, returning to the province was a warm homecoming for Aschta. And caring for the orangutans and preparing them for a life in the wild are just what she loves to do the most; other than reading science fiction novels, watching movies and traveling, of course.

This month, Aschta’s dream is about the come true. She will escort her beloved orangutans to where they belong. And this is only the beginning. She hopes that the BOS Foundation will be able to continue returning all of our releasable orangutans to the forest.