As coordinator of the RHOI Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team, it is my job to make preparations for the next orangutan release in East Kalimantan. I am responsible for organising the monitoring and assessing of release candidates from Samboja Lestari, and for the selection of suitable release points in the Kehje Sewen Forest. Due to pressing office duties, I’ve only had one week to prepare!
Fortunately, I work alongside three dedicated individuals who care greatly about orangutan conservation: Indonesia’s leading primatologist and orangutan expert, Dr. Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, who was also my lecturer at National University, in Jakarta; Assistant Manager for Animal Welfare in Samboja Lestari, Christian Nicholas Pranoto; and Misdi, an orangutan researcher who was the coordinator of Tuanan Camp for the Mawas Conservation Program, in Central Kalimantan, from 2014-2015.
From left to right: Dr. Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, Misdi, Myself, Christian
Preparations for the next release are already underway in the BOS Foundation’s Samboja Lestari Orangutan Reintroduction Program – we have already had many group discussions, and have selected the most appropriate individuals ready for release. There are certain criteria rehabilitated orangutans need to fulfil before they are deemed released-ready. Release candidates must be healthy; have graduated from Forest School; spent a length of time on a pre-release island; show consistent independent behaviour and a dislike for human presence (where they exhibit behaviours such as kiss-squeaking); and be of mature age. We have five rehabilitated orangutans that fit the requirements, yet these names and numbers could change prior to the release.
After determining our candidates, our next task was to choose release points in the southern part of the Kehje Sewen Forest. There were two areas we thought would be worth surveying; one at the old Mugi Triman Camp, and one more at a phenology transect.
On the first day of our recent survey trip, we went to the old Mugi Triman Camp (Mugi Triman is the name of a timber company that used to operate in the area). This location, which is about three kilometres from Nles Mamse Camp, was used for our last release in May 2016. Our PRM team have reported that the orangutans released in May have long moved away from the area, thus, we initially considered the area a good option for the planned August release. However, on the way to the area we found a critical bridge had collapsed. We decided the alternative route would be too risky, considering the release team would have to lift the transport cages, which can weigh more than 100 kilograms.
A 15-20 meter trail, , with a dangerous 8-10 meter-deep cliff on both sides, on the way to the old Mugi Triman Camp
The following day, we checked the next option; the area around a phenology transect, located about 4 kilometres from Nles Mamse Camp. Our PRM team had last surveyed the area in 2015, and found the area to be accessible by car with only minor labour required to clear the path. We have deemed this the obvious best choice for the release.
The phenology transect area
Stay tuned to our website to find out more on my journey in the Kehje Sewen Forest!
Text by: Rika Safira, PRM Coordinator for RHOI at Headquarter