In 2020, efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the local communities around the rehabilitation centres were proven to be very successful. We are now continuing our efforts to protect both people and orangutans. At the same time, many orangutans can finally look forward to being moved from the centres to islands with a forest-like environment.

Although the corona pandemic is far from over, the new year has started on a positive note at the rehabilitation centres.

Last summer, Save the Orangutan and our partners launched an important COVID-19 prevention effort in the local communities around the Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre to protect staff and orangutans at the centre.

The locals – including Nyaru Menteng staff – were tested. They were informed about all the important corona related information and how to act if becoming infected. The communities were provided with protective equipment and hygiene items such as soap and washbasins.

Protective equipment delivered to the local communities.

The effort made a notable difference in preventing the spread of the virus in the area.

“We can see that the number of new infections decreased from the time we started the project until it ended. There is no doubt that the project had a great impact on this, and therefore we consider it very successful. It is important for the locals in the communities, but it also protects the orangutans at the rehabilitation centre when the infection rates decrease in the areas where the staff lives,” explains Hanne Gürtler, director at Save the Orangutan.

Targeting the efforts against COVID-19

Unfortunately, the general corona situation in Indonesia remains troubling. With increasing infection rates, we have decided to continue the efforts to spread information about COVID-19 and provide tests in the areas around Nyaru Menteng. This time around, the area around the Samboja Lestari Rehabilitation Centre is also covered by the project.

Experiences from 2020 show that areas such as markets are infection hotspots. We are now using this information to target the efforts further.

The orangutans can be transported by boat

While the efforts in the local communities prevent COVID-19 from entering the centres, the rehabilitation in Forest School still continues at the centres – following strict COVID-19 regulations.

The orangutans can now be transported by boat to the islands.

It has been almost a year since any orangutans have been moved from the centres. There is now, however, good news for those orangutans that are ready to continue their journey and move to islands with a forest-like environment.

The pandemic prevents the orangutans to be transported to the islands by car. Now, however, there is the possibility to transport the orangutans by boat. That way, the risk of being exposed to the virus can be avoided.

The orangutans that lack the necessary skills to survive on their own in the wild can now safely be moved to these sanctuary islands, where they can live in natural surroundings while being monitored. And the orangutans that have completed all stages of Forest School are now also able to begin the final phase before being released back into the wild: life on a pre-release island to test and hone their survival skills.