As usual, monitoring activity started early that day. At five in the morning, the PRM team were already up and ready to follow Lesan, a female orangutan who was released into Kehje Sewen Forest back in April 2012. After venturing the forest for an hour, we finally found Lesan at six. She already started a healthy breakfast of macaranga fruit, or mahang as the locals call it, her favourite fruit.
The agile Lesan moved from one tree to another, devouring fruits as she swung. She stayed in the trees all the time, didn’t touch the ground even once.
At eight, we heard a cracking sound from the trees nearby and Hamzah appeared. He approached Lesan and it seemed that Lesan didn’t mind his company. This area was actually a place where they usually meet and play together. And of course, not long after, the party began!
They enjoyed macaranga fruits which were abundant around them while we watched from a distance. We saw them playing together, and apparently, Hamzah was interested in courting Lesan because he kept following her. Sometimes he would also ask for fruit from Lesan and Lesan would happily give it to him. When rain fell by midday, they took shelter under an impromptu umbrella made from a branch with big leaves. That was quite a romantic moment that we felt a little bit embarassed watching them!
In wild orangutans, it has been discovered that female orangutans of Lesan’s age are not usually attracted to young adult males like Hamzah. It is possible that Lesan only tolerates Hamzah because she looks at him as a brother or a really good friend instead of a potential mate. But considering that Lesan and Hamzah grew up together in the BOS Foundation’s rehabilitation center instead of in a forest like wild orangutans, their behaviors may slightly differ. Observing and recording these differences is one of the many reasons of post-release monitoring.
It didn’t take long for Lesan to leave the romantic setting, however. She wasn’t romantically interested in Hamzah after all. Right after the rain stopped she tried to leave Hamzah behind and to go on her own way, but Hamzah was insisting on following her. Tailing them was the monitoring team who had to keep up with their amazing speed and agility. They finally separated in a hill where Lesan went to the north and Hamzah decided to go south instead.
You might have heard that the process of orangutan reintroduction does not stop with them being released into the forest. Post release activity for orangutan is called PRM or Post-Release Monitoring, where a team must monitor each individual for at least 1 year to ensure their reintroduction is successful. PRM aims at monitoring the orangutans’ ability to adjust and survive in their new home. We monitor their forest skills, including whether or not they can find food during non-fruiting season. PRM results become a valuable evaluation material for the development or improvement of rehabilitation program.
Text and photo: Rio Ardie – Restoration Coordinator