March 22, 2014 | Orangutan Release Day 3
The first eight orangutans were returned to their true home in the Kehje Sewen Forest on March 20, 2014. But due to bad weather conditions, Kent and Wani had to stay overnight in Muara Wahau. Today, after a full assessment, the weather was deemed safe for the B3 helicopter to finally fly the two orangutans back to their true home.
The Final Two Return Home!
Leaving for the airport at 6.30 am this morning, the Orangutan Release Team in Muara Wahau was in high spirits. The town was still covered in a thick morning fog, but unlike the previous morning, the birds were singing songs of hope. We were going to send Kent and Wani home to the Kehje Sewen Forest, after the unfortunate delay yesterday due to bad weather.
The team arrived at PT. Swakarsa Sinar Sentosa’s airport at 7 am. Vet Agnes and the five technicians who had stayed with the orangutans last night, were already busy checking and feeding Kent and Wani. Wani was getting a bit impatient and who could blame her! She banged her travel cage and shook it from side to side, but stopped as soon as vet Agnes brought her some milk. Kent and Wani were both in good health. Vet Agnes said that they were mostly calm and slept soundly all through the night.
Reports and photos from Kehje Sewen indicated that the forest too, was still foggy. But it didn’t rain this morning, so we hoped that was a good sign. We took our time, had breakfast and cheered up each other up by telling jokes. We had all day. As soon as the fog cleared up, we would send these two orangutans back to where they belong – the forest.
Have a Safe Trip, Kent & Wani!
Warm rays of the sun finally pierced through the fog at 11 am, chasing it away. At Camp 103 in Kehje Sewen, the sky had reportedly cleared also. We immediately got ready. After final checks on the orangutans by vet Agnes, the technicians took the travel cages and loaded them into the sling load net. Then the Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) secured and checked the sling load thoroughly and soon after the pilot started the helicopter’s engines.
At 11.11 am, Kent and Wani were finally lifted up into the sky once again, heading to their new home in the Kehje Sewen Forest. We waved goodbye and prayed for their safe journey home. Then we returned to the small hut (waiting area at the airport) and waited for good news from our team in the forest.
The helicopter returned safely to Muara Wahau at 12.48 pm, bringing empty travel cages from the previous release trip two days ago. Shortly after, the helicopter flew back to Balikpapan with four of our team members on board. The rest of the team happily drove back to town to have a good rest while waiting for exciting release stories of Kent and Wani from our team in Kehje Sewen Forest.
They Who Finally Returned Home
At 10:55 precisely, the B3 helicopter carrying Kent and Wani in their travel cages landed safely on the helipad in Camp 103, guided by Masino, our HLO from Samboja Lestari.
Their arrival was greeted by rain in Kehje Sewen. Immediately, they were taken to their release points, 1.8 km from Camp 103 towards the Lembu River. The release points were specially designated by Dr. Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, orangutan expert who is also a supporting expert consultant for the BOS Foundation and who was attending the release event in Kehje Sewen.
Wani’s travel cage was opened first at 12.30. Released by Sam Edri, Samboja Lestari’s technician, the female orangutan dashed out of the cage and climbed a tree. Wani who had been impatient and kept banging on her travel cage door, kept climbing and climbing while observing her surroundings from the tree.
Fifteen minutes later, it was Kent’s turn for freedom. He was released 200 meters away from Wani by Wondo, a driver from Pelangsiran (a small transit community of agarwood and bird’s nest collectors located on the border of Kehje Sewen) who had driven the orangutans to their release points. Kent climbed a tree almost immediately after the door was opened, and just like Wani, took the chance to observe his new surroundings from the tree.
Kent and Wani were very lucky to have been included within this release event. DNA tests are costly and take time. The BOS Foundation received their DNA test results at the very last minute, during the transport of the first eight orangutans on March 20. Once we found out the results did indeed confirm that Kent and Wani are East Kalimantan orangutans, it was decided that they retained their candidacy and would go home following the first eight. Adding to the gut wrenching drama was the delay of their release yesterday, due to the weather conditions. But now, they’re safe. Wani and Kent have finally been returned to the forest. Welcome to Kehje Sewen and we’ll be watching over you!
Your Immediate Support is Needed
While the unforeseen delay is beyond our control, it has hampered us with additional costs, including the cost of helicopter rental. We desperately need your immediate support. Click http://donation.orangutan.or.id and donate to give your support for our successful reintroduction event from Samboja Lestari.
Text by: Rini Sucahyo and Monica Devi Krisnasari.