7 Orangutans From The Samboja Lestari Sanctuary Were Released Back Into The Wild Yesterday!

7 Orangutans From The Samboja Lestari Sanctuary Were Released Back Into The Wild Yesterday!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 1st Mar 2017

While we love receiving all news and updates from our projects, there is one announcement that we’re so happy to share with you all: the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Sanctuary is due to release seven orangutans today!

Events like this don’t come around all too regularly – the sanctuary works tirelessly to rehabilitate the orangutans that arrive at Samboja (or those that are rescued and redirected to the sanctuary), and many of the orangutans in desperate need are the young ones. Orangutans are faced with the near-constant threats of deforestation, poaching and the pet trade; for many, this means that they are to be raised in a world without their mothers, unable to fend for themselves. As a result of this, a number of orangutans must stay in the care of the Samboja team until they are strong enough to leave the sanctuary. In the case of two orangutans due for release today, this scenario is an all-too distinct reality.

Orangutan release into wild

Elisa arrived at Samboja Lestari on the 2nd of August, 1993, after being rescued from a Samarinda resident. She was only 1 year old.

During her time at the sanctuary, Elisa proved to be a strong individual…and curious, too! She is known as a good explorer and nest-builder and, now at the age of 25 years old, she is ready to face the world. For Elisa, release has been a long time coming – she was moved to the pre-release island in 2008 to continue her rehabilitation, and has spent two pre-realise islands between then and now. Her new home will become the Kehje Sewen Forest, and we’re thrilled to hear about this happy ending that she so deserves.


Another orangutan, Emmy, has had a similar experience to Elisa. Also just 1 year old at the time of her arrival at Samboja, Emmy has spent her years being cared for with dedication by the team at the sanctuary. This adorable explorer has spent time on a couple of manmade islands at Samboja, preparing for her big release into the Kehje Sewen Forest. Now at the age of 21, Emmy is ready for life outside of the sanctuary.

The next orangutan set for realise is Eris: rescued by local authorities at the age of 4 years old, Eris was found to have been kept illegally as a pet. After passing the mandatory quarantine period in 2004, Eris was able to join the Forest School programme at Level 2, allowing her to begin her rehabilitation. It was clear early on that Eris was an intelligent ape, quickly embracing new skills and taking a fancy to exploring (especially up in the tree tops!) These skills will surely be of good use to Eris, as she begins her journey back into the wild.

Orangutan from Samboja Lestari

Another orangutan rescued from a cruel and gravely unfair circumstance is Cemong. Arriving at Samboja on the 29th of May in 2001, Cemong had spent his previous four years of life at an amusement park in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. Understandably, this ape displayed a dislike for humans during his time at Samboja, but got along famously with his fellow orangutans. Now aged 20 years old, Cemong is finally ready for freedom and life in the wild.

Orangutan released into the wild

After being rescued from a Jambi resident back in 2002, Wardah became yet another orangutan to call Samboja home. From the age of 5 years old, Wardah proved to be incredibly intelligent, showing extraordinary progress during her time at the Forest School and exhibiting brilliant foraging and nest-building skills. After 15 years of rehabilitation, this popular and friendly orangutan is now ready to be returned to freedom, and we look forward to receiving updates from the post-release monitoring team as they check in on this wonderful lady!

Female orangutan

Back in 2007, a slightly older resident arrived at Samboja Lestari. 10-year old Wulani came from Banjarbaru in South Kalimantan, and exhibited wild behaviours early on. Her progress was fast, moving onto a separate island with Emmy in 2010 (the two of them eventually moving to another island to make way for another resident.) During her time on the manmade islands, Wulani seemed incredibly shy of embracing human interaction, avoiding technicians and only taking fruit from the feeding platform when the coast was clear. Now at the age of 20, Wulani can look forward to what we hope will be a peaceful life in Kehje Sewen Forest!

Male orangutan

The final orangutan due for release today is Beni, another older orangutan at the time of his move to Samboja back in 2006. From the age of 10 years old, Beni has always exhibited purely wild behaviours, indicating that he had had minimum to zero interaction with humans before his time at the sanctuary. That said, he was still a friendly ape towards his peers and, now 21, Beni can look forward to enjoying life in the wild once more.

To see these seven orangutans on the cusp of freedom once more is, simply put, very moving. Preparing these orangutans to survive life in the wild is such a huge priority for the team at the project, and now it seems that their tireless efforts have paid off. We’ll be keeping our ear to the ground in the hopes of hearing more news post-release but, until then, we can’t wait to share footage from the release with you all! As soon as the footage of the release reaches The Great Projects’ office, we will of course let you all know…but until then, join us in wishing the best of luck to those orangutans beginning a new life out in the Kehje Sewen Forest!

If you would like to join the efforts at Samboja Lestari, head to our project page to learn how you can volunteer with orangutans in Borneo! Volunteers at the sanctuary provide crucial help and enable the staff members to have enough time to provide care to the orangutans. Without the hard work of volunteers, orangutan releases would prove a lot more difficult as staff members would be caught up with other jobs, so you are safe in the knowledge that if you become our next Samboja Lestari volunteer you will be making a big difference to the lives of the Great Apes.

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kate commented 6 years ago
I'm with Sharon, so so happy for them and their future - I couldn't be prouder to have been a part of this project

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Sharon commented 6 years ago
My heart is so big after reading about this release... cant wait to go back in May!! Well done BOSF!!

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Patricia commented 6 years ago
I hope they will be very happy in their new homes.

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