March 20, 2014| Orangutan Release Day 1
Today, March 20 2014, eight orangutans finally departed from Samboja Lestari towards predesignated release points in the Kehje Sewen Forest. They were divided into two groups; the first group consisted of Acul, Nila, Oneng, and Upi, and the second group consisted of Indo, Maduri, Leke and Bajuri.
This is the first of a series of planned release events from Samboja Lestari during 2014.
The Journey Began!
The first day started with the medical preparations. At 4.30 in the morning, the Medical Team and Technicians were ready at Samboja Lestari Clinic and immediately departed for the Quarantine Complex. The Medical Team was led by vet Agus Irwanto and they were all set to prepare the orangutans for their journey. The day however, was still dark so vet Agus decided to wait for a while to avoid any unwanted mistakes during the sedation process.
drh. Agus preparing sedation doses.
The Samboja Lestari Medical Team started the sedation process at 06.06. Upi, a female orangutan who is known for her habit of making chirping vocalisations towards her least favourite babysitters was lucky number one. The sedation dose didn’t have the desired affect so the vet decided to add to her dose. After quite a long time, she finally fell asleep and could be moved to her transport cage.
Sedating Upi and taking her into her travel cage.
Acul, a dominant male orangutan with growing cheekpads was the second to be sedated. Just like Upi, Acul also needed an extra dose before he finally fell asleep and could be moved to his transport cage.
Sedating Acul and taking him into his travel cage.
The next was Nila, a quiet orangutan known as a loner who is not very fond of other female orangutans. She, too, needed an extra sedation dose.
Sedating NIla and taking her into her travel cage.
Oneng, however, felt the sedation effects kick in right away. Without any trouble, the Team moved the female safely into her travel cage.
Sedating Oneng and taking her into her travel cage.
Before being placed into their respective travel cages, the vet took a blood sample from each candidate to be added to the serum bank.
Taking blood samples.
Soon after all of the transport cages were loaded onto the truck, the team departed for Sepinggan International Airport in Balikpapan, where the candidates were to be flown onwards to an airport belonging to PT. Swakarsa Sinar Sentosa in Muara Wahau.
They were loaded onto the truck.
The airplane which would carry the orangutans was ready and waiting for them at Sepinggan. The release truck arrived at the airport at 08.19 and soon enough, we received the signal to start loading the orangutans onto the plane, which took us only ten minutes.
Acul, Nila, Oneng, and Upi were then ready to go!
Leaving the Humans’ World
The Orangutan Release Team in Muara Wahau was also up and about very early this morning. By 7 am, they were already on standby at the small airport belonging to PT. Swakarsa Sinar Sentosa. Airport staff and the security team from PT. Swakarsa Sinar Sentosa were also ready on site. The B3 helicopter from Hevilift arrived at the airport at around 8.30 am. After discussing drop points with our team, the helicopter pilot decided to do a flyover of Kehje Sewen Forest to find the drop points. He arrived back in Muara Wahau about an hour later and immediately started to refuel. The weather was beautiful this morning, lifting the teams spirits. We were excited to be sending our orangutans on their final journey home!
B3 helicopter arrived in Muara Wahau.
The Twin Otter airplane was sighted in the sky over Muara Wahau at 10.20 am and landed safely. We began unloading the first four travel cages straight away and loading them into the slingload net, while the Twin Otter took off again to return to Balikpapan. Acul, Nila, Oneng and Upi all seemed to be calm while we were loading them onto the slingload. Vet Agnes sprinkled the travel cages with water to keep them cool and the Samboja Lestari technicians gave them their last snacks of fresh fruit. At 10.54 am, our first four orangutans – Acul, Nila, Oneng and Upi – took to the sky, leaving the world of humans for good and finally returning to their rightful home.
Acul, Nila, Oneng and Upi were off to their forest home!
Hallo Kehje Sewen!
At 10:40 the B3 helicopter approched Drop Point 1 located on 103 Hill carrying four orangutan travel cages in the slingload net. Guided by Masino, the HLO from Samboja Lestari, the four orangutans landed safely at Drop Point 1. Soon, Masino released the net from the sling load and gave the signal to the pilot that it was safe to fly away.
Masino as HLO.
With amazing effeciency, the RHOI Team supported by Samboja Lestari technicians opened the net in order to remove the cages. Acul, Nila, Upi and Oneng were then immediately brought to a pre-designated release point on Hill 103, which is situated along the border of the Protected Forest – Gunung Batu Mesangat.
Their release points were located one kilometer away from Camp 103 and 500 meters away from the helicopter drop point. Once her travel cage was lifted out of the safety net, Nila seemed unhappy with the Team’s presence; she slammed her cage several times while watching the Team intently.
Three Brave Females
The first travel cage to be opened was Oneng’s. Opened by Nur, Deputy Manager of Camp 103, Oneng ran straight to a tree and climbed up. She climbed higher and higher and did not hesitate to move from one tree to another. Being the smallest in her group doesn’t mean she is not a confident orangutan. She was soon exploring the area surrounding her release point until the Release Team left her to enjoy her first moments of her new life.
Oneng was the first to be released.
Masino, a technician from Samboja Lestari, who also trained as a HLO opened the second cage, Upi’s cage. The release point was about 100 meters away from that of Oneng’s. Once the door was opened Upi climbed a tree after stopping for a few seconds to stare at Masino and the Team. In Samboja Lestari, Upi was known as a curious and active orangutan. Masino who is very familiar with the female orangutan whilst in the Forest School claimed that he was so proud to see her independence. Soon after climbing a tree, Upi disappeared in the lush forest canopy.
Upi enjoying new home!
The third cage was Nila’s which was opened 200 meters away from Upi’s point, by vet Putra from Samboja Lestari. Nila who was impatient stormed out of her cage. She quickly climbed a tree and explored the area around her release point with the PRM Team following to observe her.
drh. Putra opened Nila’s cage.
Acul was Looking for Nila?
Acul was in the fourth travel cage and his release point was towards the Protected Forest of Gunung Batu Mesangat, 100 meters away from Nila’s. Musa Ba Helaq, the Acting Chief of Diaq Lay Village opened his cage, representing the people of Dayak Wehea. Once the door was opened, the male with cheekpads stepped out, but took his time before climbing a tree.
Musa opened Acul’s cage.
He seemed to be still under the remaining influence of sedation. He walked slowly towards Nila’s release point and walked around a tree where Nila had earlier climbed, and sniffed Nila’s empty travel cage. Acul looked up, but hesitation was clear in his body language. He then decided to follow the technicians who moved Nila’s cage as if following Nila’s odour. After about 50 meters, he sat down eating manggo leaves before finally climbing a tree.
Acul, the first moments of freedom.
Samboja Lestari: Second Group Preparation
Meanwhile at the Quarantine Complex in Samboja Lestari, the sedation preparation for the second group of orangutans started at 09.18. By 09.22, the sedation process commenced with Bajuri being the first. After almost six minutes the sedation seemed to take no effect on Bajuri, hence Vet Agus decided to add the dose. Bajuri was finally asleep and moved to his travel cage.
Sedating Bajuri and taking him into his travel cage.
The beautiful Maduri with her fair skinned face was the next to be sedated. Maduri seemed nervous upon seeing a technician approaching her with the sedation equipment. She started making screeching vocalisations as if telling the technician to stay away from her. But when she saw Bajuri being moved to the transport cage, Maduri started to calm down and the technician was able to sedate her. It took quite a while for the sedation to take effect on Maduri, but the team decided not to give her extra dose. She was then moved to her transport cage.
Sedating Maduri and taking her into her travel cage.
After Maduri, Indo, the male orangutan who was the best graduate of Forest School was the next to be sedated. It also took him some time to fall asleep, but just like Maduri he didn’t receive any additional medication and could finally be moved into his transport cage.
Sedating Indo and taking him to his travel cage.
Leke, the stout dominant female orangutan was the last to be sedated. Since it took her a very long time to fall asleep, vet Agus decided to top up her dose. She finally fell asleep and was moved into the transport cage which would carry her to her true home in Kehje Sewen.
Sedating Leke and taking her into her travel cage.
By 10.21, the whole sedation and moving process for Group 2 was completed. But before travel commenced, the Team needed to make sure that the orangutans were all awake. It is important for their safety, to avoid serious injury which can occur if they travel while asleep; for example if the neck was badly positioned, the orangutans would be unable to breathe properly. The journey might also cause motion sickness and regurgitation. Therefore, reversing the anesthetic is of extreme importance.
Loading the cages onto the truck.
The truck arrived at Sepinggan at 11.30. We still had to wait for around half an hour for the return of the airplane which had taken Group 1 to Muara Wahau. Upon arrival, the loading process was immediately undertaken and soon all of the orangutans were safely secured on the airplane.
The cages were loaded into the plane.
The plane was ready to fly.
The B3 helicopter returned to PT. Swakarsa Sinar Sentosa’s airport at 12.20 pm and refueled again, while waiting for the second group of orangutans to arrive. This next and final group – consisting of Indo, Maduri, Leke and Bajuri – arrived on the Twin Otter at 1.41 pm. The process of unloading and loading travel cages recommenced. Just like the first group, these four release candidates didn’t give us any trouble at all. They quietly sat in their travel cages. Leke, especially, enjoyed being sprinkled with water by vet Agnes.
Loading Indo, Maduri, Leke and Bajuri on the sling load.
Finally at 2.00 pm, the team in Muara Wahau concluded the day by sending Indo, Maduri, Leke and Bajuri to their final destination, the Kehje Sewen Forest in the B3 helicopter slingload. The Twin Otter also took off shortly after the helicopter took off and flew back to Balikpapan. Tears of joy were unavoidable no matter how many times we have seen this process in the past two years. Sending orangutans home is always such a magical moment for all of us.
The second group of the day was finally returning home.
Orangutan Release in Lembu Hill
The helicopter arrived at Drop Point 2 at 14:00 carrying Indo, Maduri, Leke, and Bajuri in their travel cages. Guided by HLO Arief, the two males and two females landed safely.
The first cage to be opened from the second group was Bajuri’s. Opened by Fajar a technician from Camp 103, Bajuri walked around for a while before finally climbing a Koordersiodendron pinatum tree where he started consuming young leaves.
Bowo, a technician from Camp 103 opened the second cage, which was Leke’s. Her release point was 200 meters away from Bajuri’s. Unlike Bajuri who took his time walking around on the ground, Leke dashed towards a tree and climbed up immediately.
Leke’s cage was opened by Bowo.
The third cage was Maduri’s. Opened 100 meters away from Leke’s by Budi Kuswara, a long term and fully dedicated driver of the BOS Foundation who has been with us for nine years. Maduri seemed very enthusiastic to step out of her cage and quickly moved towards the trees and climbed up.
Maduri’s first moments of freedom.
Indo was in the fourth travel cage and his release point was 200 meters away from Maduri’s. Once the door was opened by Bambang and Arief, Indo stepped out and watched the Team closely before climbing a tree in front of him.
Finally eight orangutans from Samboja Lestari were released into the Kehje Sewen Forest. Acul and friends now enjoy the freedom in their natural habitat after undergoing a long process of rehabilitation in Samboja Lestari. Seeing their confidence and ability in choosing natural foods, the Team hopes that the orangutans will enjoy living and exploring their new home.
At the end of the day, the Team watched with emotion filling their hearts as the B3 Helicopter flew away leaving Camp 103 and carrying empty travel cages, bringing joyful news for the whole BOS Foundation family. Tomorrow, Kent and Wani will join their friends in their new home.
The helicopter arrived again at the airport at 4.28 pm, bringing empty travel cages from the first group. Meanwhile, the rest of the team in Muara Wahau could finally have a much-deserved rest while waiting for good news from the forest. A great first day in Muara Wahau and we are hoping for another great day tomorrow!
Text by: Meirini Sucahyo, Paulina L. Ela, Monica Devi Krisnasari.