Monitoring teams observe released orangutans’ behaviour, adaptation to their new surroundings, and health closely in all of BOS Foundation’s release sites. The monitoring team in Bukit Batikap was on a routine patrol when they found Karen, who clearly did not feel well.

Following their release, the orangutans face several new challenges. Among other things, they need to adapt to an unknown territory and new conditions and they need to familiarise themselves with the area’s food sources and local predators. Monitoring teams therefore follow the released orangutans closely, in part via transmitters, which were implanted in the orangutans prior to their release, and in part via observation.

Unlike us humans, orangutans cannot call their doctor if they fall ill in the rainforest. They depend on their instincts and acquired skills in avoiding animals and plants that might make them sick. Should they fall ill anyway, they have to forage for medicinal herbs to relieve their symptoms. BOS Foundation’s monitoring team will interfere if a released orangutan falls seriously ill.

This happened recently with Karen, who was released into Bukit Batikap in December last year. On a routine patrol, the monitoring team found Karen sitting in a nest on the ground. They observed her for a while, and it was obvious that she was unable to move. No visible injuries could be seen and the team concluded that she might have eaten a poisonous plant. The team therefore called the Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation centre, who immediately sent a veterinary team to Bukit Batikap.

But the journey from Nyaru Menteng to Bukit Batikap is a long and challenging one, and it took almost seven days and three different forms of transportation before the veterinary team reached Karen. In the meantime, the monitoring team continued to observe Karen. They gave her fruit and leaves to keep her fed and hydrated, and they camouflaged her nest to protect her from predators and other orangutans.

When the veterinarians finally reached the park after 7 days, the veterinarian Agus examined Karen right away. Her symptoms seemed to be associated with inflammation of or problems in the throat – likely due to food poisoning – which made it hard for her to eat. They sedated Karen and brought her to the outskirts of the monitoring team’s camp and put her in a transport cage. After 3 days in the cage with intensive veterinary treatment, she had recovered completely and was reintroduced to the rainforest.

A week later, the monitoring team observed Karen again and found that she had returned to her usual routines: she ate plenty of fruit and went on expeditions around the rainforest. They were happy and relieved to see her healthy and well again and they hope she will be a little more careful with her foods in the future.

Focusing our efforts to release the rehabilitated orangutans

There are numerous orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation centre ready to return to the rainforest in the near future. This is why we have focused our efforts to release as many rehabilitated orangutans as possible in 2018. As this story proves, the efforts following the release is crucial, not only to the orangutans’ health and well-being, but also to their protection and survival. Post monitoring therefore also includes monitoring of the rainforest and involvement of local communities to protect the released orangutans and their new rainforest home.

You can read more about our efforts to protect the wild orangutan populations here >>