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November 08, 2016
Early morning during a recent daily patrol, our Kehje Sewen Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team spotted the familiar signs of an orangutan approaching. Off in the distance, tall trees were leaning at great angles and then springing back into an upright position as an orangutan moved from tree to tree. The PRM coordinator and a volunteer set off to identify the individual, who had stopped on a branch high up in the trees.
The team expected to meet Casey, a female orangutan who had been spotted in the area the day before, but on approach saw that the orangutan was carrying a baby. It was Lesan and her 5-month-old infant! The team was ecstatic to meet the pair again, as they had not been seen since July, after Lesan returned deep into the forest to raise her newborn during its most crucial first months.
Lesan and her baby
Not long after arriving at the forest’s edge, where Lesan was resting, the team heard more rustling further up the hill. It was Casey – she and Lesan appeared to be travelling together. The two females had most likely built their night nests in close proximity, and met each other in the forest whilst foraging for food. Casey and Lesan were last seen travelling together months ago, when Lesan patiently allowed Casey to observe her with her new baby, who at the time was just a few days old (Read more here: Lesan Becomes a Mother).
Lesan, her baby, and Casey together in a tree
On this occasion, Lesan led the way through the forest while Casey followed closely behind. They sat together on the bough of a tree while Lesan groomed and nursed her baby, with Casey paying close attention. Eventually, they parted ways, after Lesan headed toward a tree that has become a popular feeding destination among orangutans in the Kehje Sewen Forest. She climbed to the very top, with her baby keeping a firm grip on her back: With eyes wide open to the world around her, Lesan’s baby is now strong enough to support herself as her mother travels through the forest. Lesan spent an hour stripping and feeding on bark with her strong jaws and teeth before moving off again.
Lesan eats bark
The PRM team followed, collecting valuable behavioural data on the mother-infant pair along the way. It is always a challenge following Lesan, as she is an incredibly skilled climber, and is both fast and quiet, which bodes her well in the wild. Eventually, Lesan slipped out of sight, and the team returned to camp feeling happy to have witnessed mother and baby doing so well in their first few months together in the forest. We look forward to meeting them again, and providing more updates on their progress!
Text and photos By: Penelope Coulter, PRM Volunteer at Camp Lesik, Kehje Sewen Forest
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