Today, Juminten and Titin finally joined their friend Leo in their true home, Kehje Sewen Forest.
While Leo was flown by helicopter directly from Samboja Lestari to Kehje Sewen, these two female orangutans must first travel by road on a truck to Sangatta, approximately 9 hours from Samboja Lestari. Accompanied by vet Agnes and seven technicians from Samboja Lestari, Juminten and Titin departed yesterday at 10.30 am and arrived at 7 pm in Sangatta where they stayed overnight in the transit enclosures at a compound belonging to PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC). They would be flown to Kehje Sewen the next day, which is today!
Preparation for Juminten and Titin
Today, since 6 am vet Agnes prepared Juminten and Titin for their departure to Kehje Sewen. Assisted by the technicians, vet Agnes sedated Juminten and Titin so they could be moved from the transit enclosures to their travel cages. The technicians of course did not forget to prepare plenty of fruits for Juminten and Titin as snacks during the journey.
The travel cages were then transported by truck to the airport, which is located around 20 minutes from KPC. The Bell 412 helicopter owned by National Utility Helicopter (NUH) was already waiting there, ready to deliver Juminten and Titin to their forest home.
On this flight, Juminten and Titin were accompanied by vet Agnes and Ferdy, a technician from Samboja Lestari. Ferdy was seen occasionally feeding Juminten, who started to look irritated in her travel cage, with some peanuts to calm her down.
Good News from Kehje Sewen
Although Kehje Sewen was hit again by heavy rain last night, this morning our team in Kehje Sewen reported happy tidings that the weather was quite clear. The Lesik River that flooded yesterday had gradually subsided. There was still some visible haze north of the helipad at Camp 103, but eventually it was replaced by clear blue sky.
In Sangatta, the helicopter carrying Juminten, Titin, vet Agnes and Ferdy took off at 9.10 am. At 9.55 am, it successfully landed on the helipad at Camp 103 in Kehje Sewen. The flight was smooth without a hitch.
The team in Kehje Sewen was ready for the arrival of Juminten and Titin. They immediately began unloading. Juminten’s travel cage was the first to be unloaded and taken to the sling at the riverbank of Lesik, followed by Titin’s travel cage.
The crossing process of these two travel cages by sling across Lesik River went effortlessly. They were then taken by car to the second crossing point at Lembu River. After successfully crossing Lembu River – also by sling – Juminten and Titin were finally transported by another car to the pre-designated release points.
Opening the Cages!
Titin was released approximately 50 meters away from Leo’s release point, while Juminten was reintroduced at some distance from Titin. Both of these female orangutans’ travel cages were opened by Dr. Aldrianto Priadjati, RHOI Deputy Director of Conservation, assisted by Eko Prasetyo, RHOI Orangutan Rescue Coordinator. Juminten’s travel cage was opened at 2.10 pm, while Titin’s was opened 10 minutes later. Once their travel cages were opened, each of them walked on the forest floor for the first few seconds before finally choosing a tree. Then they immediately climbed each of their chosen trees with joy!
A touching story behind this release was shared by Gozali (nicknamed Jali), a technician from Samboja Lestari who helped carry the two female orangutans’ travel cages to their release points. Jali witnessed young Juminten and Leo when they were rescued from a huge forest fire in East Kalimantan in 1997-1998. As a member of the rescue team that saved Leo and Juminten, Jali confessed how moved he was seeing Leo and Juminten turning into independent adults and now living freely in their true home. That is why Jali had insisted to participate in this release, just so he could watch his two best friends taste their freedom.
The Difference Between East and Central Kalimantan
Unlike orangutan releases from the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Program in Central Kalimantan that could reintroduce orangutans by the dozens at once, the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Reintroduction Program in East Kalimantan this time could only release three orangutans due to a much more difficult terrain.
Landscape in Central Kalimantan is generally flat and dominated by peatland forests. While in East Kalimantan, the typical forest type is rainforest that grows in hilly areas, bordered by large rapid white-water rivers that are prone to flooding. Therefore the orangutan releases in East Kalimantan have a high level of complexity and the cost is also very high.
It is our hope that our reintroduction efforts continue to gain support from various parties, especially financial, transportation and logistical support, so that more East Kalimantan rehabilitated orangutans could join Leo and his friends in the wild.
They are Finally Home
Finally, the Samboja Lestari orangutan release activity was completed. Leo, Juminten and Titin are now home in the Kehje Sewen Forest.
Enjoy your true freedom high in the canopy, dear Leo, Juminten and Titin! We will keep a close eye on you.
Text by: Monica Devi Krisnasari – BOSF Communications Assistant