6 years ago, Sifa was one of the first orangutans to be released into Bukit Batikap Protection Forest by BOS Foundation. As is the case with all releases, the orangutans are monitored closely after their release and their release site has been carefully selected. Naturally, the orangutans can move around freely within a large area, and the monitoring team therefore loses sight of them eventually. But sometimes they show up again. Sifa, a young female orangutan who was released with her mother Sif back in 2012, showed up again after moving out of the monitoring teams’ range.

On the left is a picture of Sif and Sifa after their release in 2012. On the right is a recent picture of Sifa.

A mother and her 4-year-old offspring moved out of range

In 2012, the two orangutans Sif and Sifa were released in what was just the second release from Nyaru Menteng into Bukit Batikap. The couple was regularly observed by a monitoring team from Camp Totat Jalu until 2015, when they suddenly moved out of range. At the time, the monitoring team concluded they had moved to a new forest area out of any of BOS Foundation monitoring teams’ range. Fortunately, the following story is based on recent observations of Sifa.

Sifa suddenly reappeared

We were all surprised in February this year when a monitoring team ran into Sifa again. She had grown significantly, but unfortunately, it seemed she had gone blind on her left eye.

Sifa is around 10 years old today, and she has likely been pushed away from Sif, possibly because she had a new offspring to care for. However, Sifa is not yet a fully-grown orangutan, and she still wants to be close to other orangutans despite her independence and good health.

During the monitoring team’s observations, they often found Sifa in the company of Compost, an older female orangutan. Compost treated Sifa well and she almost fulfilled the role of a bonus mother to her: She shared all her food with the young Sifa and ran to her whenever she called out for her. The monitoring team explained how great it was to observe the interactions between the two orangutans.

Read a recent update on the pregnant Compost here >>

Compost, the female orangutan Sifa spent a lot of time with after showing up again.

 A new unusual companionship

After six months’ worth of regular monitoring of Sifa and Compost, Sifa surprised the team once again: She left Compost. The team then realised Sifa was spending time with another female orangutan, Gina. Gina is a tolerant orangutan but she generally does not seem to care about the other orangutans’ movements and activities. Cilik, a young male, has tried to mate with Gina several times but she has fought him successfully every time. Despite Gina’s small figure, she has proven to be a stubborn fighter.

On the first day of monitoring this unusual couple, things went exactly as expected: Gina ignored Sifa completely. On the next day, the monitoring team expected the same thing to happen, but they were proven wrong. A few minutes after the monitoring team arrived on site, Sifa swung towards Gina and grabbed her by the top of her head. This is a common way to invite to play in orangutans. Within seconds, the two orangutans had initiated a wrestling match and they rolled around the forest floor together. They played together non-stop for 40 minutes.

Gina, Sifa’s new companion in Bukit Batikap.

Sifa and Gina: Companions on unequal terms

By the end of the day, the new companions Sifa and Gina travelled together through the forest with plenty of foraging breaks. In the afternoon, Gina found a large rotten tree full of termites. Her great strength let her break off pieces of the bark and she began feasting. The smaller and weaker Sifa began begging Gina for some of her termites. Initially, Gina ignored her, but Sifa persisted and Gina pushed her away to have some peace during her meal. Sifa understood and she went to find some bark to eat for herself from a tree nearby.

Gina went back over to Sifa after a satisfactory feast. Rather than foraging for food for herself, Gina took the bark out of Sifa’s hands and started eating it herself. Sifa accepted it. Gina might not be as protective a ‘bonus mother’ as Compost is, but Sifa’s appreciation of her new companion was clear as day – as long as they both had food enough at least!

This story from Bukit Batikap’s monitoring team is a good insight into life of a released orangutan, and it proves orangutans are social beings despite of their independence. We enjoy receiving updates like these demonstrating how the rehabilitated orangutans are able to successfully survive on their own in the wild and adapt to their new habitat.

Read more about our rehabilitation and reintroduction programme here >>