Berlian’s Tale of the Bees and the Termites

Kehje Sewen Forest, May 28, 2012

Heavy rain rinsed the forest of Mount Belah since 4 AM. Consequently, activities of orangutans slowed down slightly. Berlian took the opportunity to sleep in until around 10 AM, and instead of immediately foraging as she usually does, she was just lazying around for a while. Sitting on a branch, she covered her head with several large leaves. Even the nearby fruiting Ficus tree could not make her move. It really was a cold morning.

Berlian, swinging happily in the trees.

Parts of Berlian’s body were swollen because of beestings.

Later in the day, Berlian finally got hungry enough. She swung to the Ficus tree and started eating the fruits. Unexpectedly though, a group of bees was clearly disturbed by Berlian’s activity, which culminated in a sudden attack. Berlian had to quickly go down from the tree and ran on the ground to avoid beestings. She ran straight into our Post Release Monitoring (PRM) Team (Deni, Izur, vet Agus, Masino and Putri). Naturally, seeing the bees going ballistic, the team also ran with her! It was frightening, but comedic at the same time.

Having escaped her first bee attack did not stop Berlian from foraging near the beehive. She rejoined Lesan to eat at treetops. And of course, she had to face another attack. Once again, Berlian went down from the tree and ran towards the PRM Team. This time, Berlian and several members of the team could not escape easily. Berlian, as well as vet Agus and Deni, got stung quite a few times. It was not clear why Berlian kept running towards our team. It could be because she thought we could help her or maybe to simply ‘share’ her misery and misfortune.

Looking for alternative food sources on the ground, such as termites.

After that incident, Berlian seemed reluctant to find food at treetops, where the bees reside. Parts of her body were swollen from beestings and she spent a lot of times on the ground scratching them, regardless of the fact that being on the ground meant she now became a target for leeches.

Enjoying protein-rich termites in a cold rainy day.

Luckily, Berlian did not give up on foraging. The cold day and two bee attacks made her really hungry. So instead of searching for food at treetops, she looked for other food sources, namely termites. On the ground, Berlian had a lot of fun breaking into several termites’ nests, splitting them apart like a piece of bread so she could insert her tongue and teeth into the nests. Slurrrp… the termites quickly became a delightful meal in this cold rainy day.

The somber weather and today’s unexpected adventure – not to mention sore bodies from running and getting stung by bees – made our team very hungry as well. And also very sleepy. Seeing Berlian stuffing herself with termites and then resting drowsily against a tree after her meal, the team retreated to Camp and also had lunch… followed by a nice afternoon nap. Life in the forest is sweet, indeed!

Berlian’s behavior reminds vet Agus to the Eskimos. As we know, in extreme cold environment of the Arctic, the Eskimos’ diet mainly consists of protein-rich meat because protein provides more sustainable body heat compared to carbohydrates. Vet Agus wonders whether Berlian instinctively knows this. She is very good at selecting the right food sources to adapt to any condition and situation at Mount Belah.

Berlian also teaches the PRM Team about courage and resilience. She teaches us that if we don’t give up and keep trying, a lot of doors to success will open up. You go, girl!

Clever Casey and the Mango Forest

Kehje Sewen Forest, May 16, 2012

When Casey met Berlian for the first time at Forest School 3, the two never got along. Even after Casey and Berlian became release candidates, Casey always ran away when she saw Berlian and Berlian always chased her. This was why we decided to release Casey first, giving her more chance to adapt to her new home. The extra time would also give Casey more time to familiarize herself with the area so she would know where to go to avoid Berlian and not get lost herself.

Our hunch proved correct. Only one day after Berlian was released, she met Casey. As usual, Casey immediately ran away. Before the encounter with Berlian, Casey was always seen playing around the acclimatization enclosures and on a hill nearby (the hill hence named “Casey’s Hill”), but not that day.

Casey ran quickly to the north, approaching our former monitoring camp and even all the way to the intersection of Mount Belah, just by the dirt track we use to access the main camp 103. The hill that fenced our ex-monitoring camp had indeed been a favorite place for several orangutans (Mail, Lesan, Berlian and also Casey) because the mango trees in the area were fruiting.

Mail was the first to find these wild mangos. Since then, Lesan and Casey followed him to the hill and together they often had “Mango Parties”. Berlian soon found out about the mango trees and started to join them, too. Having Berlian around, Lesan did not seem to mind at all. She simply ignored Berlian and continued eating her mangos. Unfortunately, Casey obviously did mind. As soon as she spotted Berlian, she came down from tree and ran on the ground. Because of the defects on her hand, Casey knew that Berlian would be able to easily catch up with her on the trees so probably felt more confident running on the ground. Luckily, Berlian does not like being on the ground and eventually would give up the chase.

But this does not mean Casey gave up easily on the delicious mangos. Instead, she strategized. When she saw Berlian in a mango tree, she would climb a nearby tree to attract Berlian’s attention. But once Berlian started a chase, Casey swiftly came down to the ground and ran far to the top of the hill. While Berlian kept swinging high up in the canopy to chase Casey at high speed, Casey cunningly slowed down and subtly turned around undetected.

Berlian appeared to think she was chasing Casey, unaware that Casey had returned safely to the mango forest and resumed partying with the rest of her friends.

Initially, the Post Release Monitoring Team thought it was just a one-time coincidence. But Casey consistently played the same trick on Berlian three days in a row demonstrating that she was purposely applying these tactics! Knowing that she found the mango trees first, smart Casey was not going to let Berlian – a newcomer – claim them easily. It was a brilliant strategy. Good job, Casey!

Photos by: Eko Prasetyo

Mail Is Recovering Beautifully

Kehje Sewen, May 14, 2012

Head Veterinarian for Samboja Lestari, Agus Irwanto, received email from veterinarian on the field, Citra, confirming that Mail’s post-surgery condition is really good. Mail’s new radio telemetry implant seems to sit firmly in his nape. Agus reported that Mail will continue to be observed for 3-4 days in accordance with Samboja Lestari’s post-surgery procedures. The Medical Team will continue to watch for possibility of infection and ensure that the incision and sutures heal properly before Mail is re-released. For now, Mail seems content in his acclimatization enclosure and is recovering beautifully. We will update again after receiving new information from the field.

Mail Received New Radio Telemetry

Kehje Sewen, May 12, 2012

On the same day Abbie was released, Mail had to be recaptured to undergo surgery. It had come to our attention that Mail’s implanted radio telemetry equipment was not working properly and had to be replaced.

At 10 am, the Medical Team led by Head Veterinarian Agus Irwanto started to put Mail under anesthesia and began the surgery. Initially, Agus could not find the broken radio and had to make a larger incision on Mail’s nape. But not long after, he found pieces of ceramics that used to cover the radio. It took a while for Agus to carefully collect all the broken pieces and cleaned the area for a new implant. By 11.15 am, though, the surgery was completed and Agus closed Mail’s nape with stitches.

The next task was to test the radio and ensure that it worked. But it didn’t! No signal was received and the Team started to panic. Right at that time, our Scientific Advisor, Signe Preuschoft dropped by. The Team immediately reported to Signe that the new radio telemetry inside Mail may also be defected. But Signe laughed and told everyone to have lunch. The Team was confused and a little frustrated. They were facing a major problem and they were told to go to lunch instead! Then Signe explained that the radio telemetry system is always turned off at lunch break to give everyone (and the system) a little rest and time to enjoy lunch. What a relief!

After surgery, Mail was brought back to the acclimatization enclosures to recover. When Abbie was released, she visited Mail for a moment, curious to see him sleeping inside his enclosure. She approached Mail and called to him with soft squeaky voice, as if waking him up, asking him to join her. But Mail, still under the influence of anesthesia, only opened his eyes for a few seconds, then went back to sleep. It was apparent that Abbie realized that Mail was not feeling well and she was worried for him. She spent a brief moment trying to reach, touch and kiss Mail. But after a while, she gave up and decided to leave Mail and enclosure area. Don’t worry, Abbie. We will re-release Mail as soon as he has fully recovered and you’ll soon be able to play with him again!

Abbie Is Home At Last!

Kehje Sewen, May 12, 2012

Abbie’s long journey by road to the Kehje Sewen Forest was finally completed. On May 12, the atmosphere at Camp 103 was cheerful. The Team was ready to release Abbie, who was in a very good health condition physically and mentally. We left Camp 103 at 8.20 am and arrived near the entrance to Mount Belah at around 8.50 am. The Release Team followed the narrow track, crossing the river five times, to get to the acclimatization enclosures. As we arrived at around 9.15 am, Abbie just woke up. She seemed to be lazy this morning and decided to sleep in. However, she looked relaxed, happy and calm.

The Team served breakfast, which Abbie accepted with joy. Abbie always had a big appetite. She finished her breakfast heartily and began to climb up and down her enclosure while observing the surrounding environment.

At 11.20 am, Abbie started to look restless. She obviously couldn’t wait to get out. She even tried to pick the lock a couple of times to let herself out. And as soon as we opened the enclosure, Abbie displayed her well-developed swinging skills. Quick but graceful, she immediately climbed the nearest tree, taking no notice of us who were watching her from the ground. Abbie was too busy and so happy swinging from tree to tree.

The Post Release Monitoring (PRM) Team started working immediately. Walking toward the intersection of Mount Belah, they began to follow Abbie and observe her first day in the forest. While the rest of us… we kept watching her with tears of joy and pride, until she disappeared from our sight. Abbie is home at last. Goodbye, dear Abbie. Take good care of yourself. We hope that you’ll love your new home in Kehje Sewen. We will miss you, but the PRM Team will always keep a close eye on you.

Abbie’s Arrival in Kehje Sewen Forest

After 16 hours journey, this morning, the team arrived at Muara Wahau at 06.00 AM. After took a rest for 30 minutes, the team then traveled to Pelangsiran. During the trip, Abbie was very cooperative. He was very quiet and did not look stress at all. When Abbie started to show a sense of boredom, the team stopped to calm him down. Team gave a lot of leaves to Abbie so that she can still feel comfortable in the transport enclosure. Abbie was also still eating and drinking normally.

Preparing Abbie on a sling to cross the river

There were so many obstacles along the way, such as broken small bridges also damaged and muddy roads. But even so, the team has finally reached Pelangsiran at 12:45 PM. dr. Agus Irwanto then anesthetized Abbie before put her on a sling to cross the river. The process was also quite quick. 35 minutes later, Abbie has already on the other side of the river and fully recovered. The technicians were also do a great job. They transported Abbie quickly and neatly, in accordance with all instructions given by the medical team.

After crossing the river, Abbie and the team then traveled to Mount Belah. The road to Mount Belah was not easy, but Abbie, as always, was very cooperative. She was doing very well and showed no signs of stress. Abbie and team arrived at Mount Belah at 05.00 PM. She was then transported to the acclimatization enclosure that is located approximately 700 m from the roadside. Promptly at 05.30 PM, Abbie was able to rest at the acclimatization enclosure She has to wait another night to be released. The team then returned to Camp 103 for further coordination on tomorrow’s release and a decent sleep.

Abbie is on her Way to the Forest!

Abbie up in the trees, refused to be retrieved

As you are aware our adventurous female orangutan Abbie, was originally scheduled to travel to Kehje Sewen Forest by helicopter together with Hamzah and Berlian on the 5th of May 2012, as part of our second orangutan group for reintroduction in East Kalimantan. Two days prior to their departure, the veterinary team assisted by our technicians planned to retrieve the orangutans from Forest School Level 3, and place them in a transitory enclosure so they could rest before traveling to the Kehje Sewen Forest. Despite all our efforts, unfortunately Abbie ‘refused’ to be retrieved as was clearly enjoying her freedom and evaded all efforts by climbing and traveling high in the trees at Samboja Lestari.

Following much considered discussion the team decided not to delay Berlian and Hamzah’s trip to the forest, whilst the vet team continued with their plans to retrieve Abbie. It is of the utmost importance that Abbie did not become overly stressed during this process as we must ensure that all of our orangutans arrive in the best of health, both physically and mentally.

After several days, Abbie was successfully retrieved from Forest School 3 yesterday afternoon at 12.00 pm. The team checked Abbie’s condition and readiness to travel the long distance overland from Samboja to Kehje Sewen Forest and pronounced her as ready to go. We decided to transport Abbie by road otherwise she would have to wait for another month until helicopter support is available. However, during the trip Abbie’s condition will be checked regularly and our Head Veterinarian drh. Agus Irwanto has a strict plan in place to continually monitor Abbie’s condition throughout the journey. Orangutan welfare is still top priority.

drh. Agus Irwanto checked Abbie’s condition as soon as the team finally retrieved her.

If all goes well, Abbie and the release team will arrive at the Kehje Sewen Forest tomorrow then will be transported to Mount Belah and be introduced to an acclimatization cage for 1-2 days to allow her to rest and become familiar with her immediate surroundings before releasing her.

Goodbye Abbie, soon you will be able to play freely in even higher trees in pristine rain forest.

Abbie is ready to go!

Berlian and Hamzah are Finally Home

The Release Team departed from Camp 103 to Mount Belah at exactly 7.30 in the morning. It was raining since the night before but fortunately the rain was stopped when we were about to go. The Release Team then went to Mount Belah by car and walked about 1 km to the release site, where Hamzah and Berlian were patiently waiting for us.

At 9 AM, Signe Preuschoft, BOSF Scientific Advisor opened Berlian’s enclosure. She directly headed to the nearest tree and climbed it up! It was very emotional moment. The orangutan that has been in our Reintroduction Program for years is now officially back to her natural habitat.

Berlian exploring the forest

Next, we moved to the next enclosure where Hamzah was watching and observing what was really going on. Gondanisam, RHOI Areal Manager then walked close to the enclosure and opened the cage. At first, Hamzah was not really sure. He looked around for a while then ran to the right side of the cage and climbed a hanging-root up high to the canopy. Hamzah was very fast! At the blink of an eye, Hamzah was already moving from one tree to another. Lovely!

Hamzah climbed up to the canopy

Welcome ‘home’ Hamzah and Berlian! Enjoy the forest!

The monitoring team

The Journey of Berlian and Hamzah

Samboja Lestari, 8.00 a.m

Today at 8 a.m Hamzah and Berlian were flown to Kehje Sewen Forest by helicopter from Indonesian Air Force with the pilots, Letkol Pnb. Hendro Arieh H. S.Sos, Kapten Pnb. Didi Rahmat S and Lettu Pnb. Nugroho Widyanto.

Kehje Sewen Forest, Camp 103, 9.10 a.m

Hamzah, Berlian and the team arrived in Camp 103 and directly transported to Gunung Belah and put them into the acclimatization cages for a night. Tomorow at 9 a.m they will be released.

[Press Release] BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari Releases 2 Rehabilitated Orangutans

After successfully releasing 3 rehabilitated orangutans last month, the BOS Foundation Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Samboja Lestari will release a further 2 rehabilitated orangutans into Kehje Sewen Forest in East Kalimantan 

Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan, May 5, 2012. Two rehabilitated orangutans – Berlian and Hamzah – will be transported to Kehje Sewen Forest from the East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Samboja Lestari. The other orangutan – Abbie – will follow later. This is the second orangutan release in East Kalimantan during 2012, and efforts will continue in line with the target set by the Indonesian Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 2007-2017, which was proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in the Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007, whereby all healthy and able orangutans in rehabilitation centers are returned to natural habitat by 2015.

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 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. Additionally we still need to secure more land in Central Kalimantan also for our ongoing orangutan release program there.

Director of BOS Foundation, Dr. Jamartin Sihite stated, “In order to achieve the target of rehabilitated orangutan release by 2015, more land for ecosystem restoration is desperately needed and our efforts are ongoing. The role and support of our government especially the Regency Government of East Kutai and the Regency Government of Kutai Kartanegara become very important in this matter.”

The successful implementation of this orangutan release is due to the support and generosity of BOS Foundation’s partner, Vier Pfoten and also the private sector such as Kaltim Prima Coal, Arutmin Indonesia and Ecodynamics.  These releases are also fully supported by all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Forestry, 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.

Transportation has been further supported by the Indonesian Air Force and Lieutenant. Riva Yanto, Sepinggan Balikpapan Air Base Commander stated, “It is an honor for us to work with the BOS Foundation on this orangutan release activity which is a government and international program.  Orangutans are an endangered species and it is our duty to participate in orangutan conservation.”

Bungaran Saragih, BOS Foundation Chairman of the Board of Trustees added, “I am very pleased to see the enthusiasm of the private sector and the stakeholders who have demonstrated a willingness and contribution to this activity. I also hope for there will be more parties involved in the future, in order to attain our goal, to release all of the healthy and able orangutans currently cared for at our reintroduction centers, to their natural habitat.”

As with our first release in East Kalimantan last month, after being flown by Indonesia Air Force helicopter type NAS-332 Super Puma from Air Squadron 6 Lanud Atang Sandjaja Bogor, two orangutans will be placed in acclimation cages located in the Kehje Sewen Forest for one-day adjustment period before they are finally released.  Our field teams will carefully monitor the orangutans progress.

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