We have some amazing news for you all the way from Borneo as three orangutans have been given a new island home at Samboja Lestari!
At Samboja there are a series of “orangutan islands” that act as a way to give some of the apes at the sanctuary a chance to roam, climb and explore, and in some cases help to prepare them for release back into the wild!
It’s always exciting when this happens at Samboja, so we will be taking a look at the three orangutans who are now exploring their new home and see how the release went. Project coordinator Kate was on hand to witness the whole event, and she has written about it for us below!
Papa came to us from Taiwan and arrived at Samboja Lestari on September 1, 1994, at the age of 5. Now 28 years old, unfortunately Papa has suffered from Hepatitis B since first arriving at the sanctuary and he therefore had to stay in a separate complex with other orangutans. The technicians who treated Papa considered him as a "gentle giant" and Papa never showed an aggressive attitude toward incoming technicians or any other orangutans.
Unfortunately, due to living with a complex medical condition and with limited space to prevent the risk of transmission of the disease to other orangutans, Papa has never really had the opportunity to develop natural skills such as climbing, foraging, and many others. However, Papa does always try to make a nest every time he is given leaves.
At the age of 28, Papa looks extremely manly and handsome with a full cheek pad on his face. We can’t wait to watch his progress on Island 4.
Citra was confiscated from the city of Palangka Raya. She came in on September 9, 1998 when she was 2 years old, in a highly worrying condition. She was malnourished, and with both her legs and arms paralysed Citra could only sit and crouch. We believe this was caused by improper treatment from her previous owner. We gave Citra daily massage therapy until she could finally start moving her limbs properly again. This took almost a whole year until she could straiten her legs and walk.
Adding to her issues, Citra was also found to be suffering from Hepatitis B so she had to be placed in a special complex to prevent the disease spreading to the other orangutans at the sanctuary.
Now Citra's condition has been reclassified as harmless and she can be put in together with other orangutans. Today, Citra 21 years old, and she has a moderate level of foraging and nest building skills that she can hone on Island 4.
Vera came from Gelanggang Samudra Jaya Ancol circus in Jakarta, on August 15, 2006 when she was a 9 year old, rather obese orangutan weighing 52 kg.
Upon her arrival, Vera had been placed in the Socialization Complex, but due to a lack of aggressive behaviour Vera could never properly compete with female mates in the complex and she felt more comfortable being alone in the complex. However with that being said, Vera can be quite aggressive towards technicians.
Vera is currently 20 years old, and we will be trialling her stay on the island to see if she can get along with Papa and Citra.
This female orangutan was first to be placed on the island on Friday 1st of December. Vera was in a deep sleep when she was put onto the island and it took her a considerable amount of time to wake up, and even once she did, she was very inactive and still sleepy.
Over the past few days she has spent the majority of her time at the spot where she was released, and enjoys her time relaxing under the platform watching people go by. She has not yet ventured far from her release spot, or interacted with Citra and Papa, but this may be due to lack of confidence in exploring the area.
However the transition of an orangutan adapting to their new surroundings can take time, especially when they move into a bigger region. We are confident though that in the next few months she will gain enough confidence to begin exploring and experimenting within her new habitat.
While she is the least active of the three orangutans and has spent her time thus far enjoying her own company, she is eating very well and is looking healthy which is a positive sign.
Another female orangutan, she was transferred onto the island shortly after Vera. Citra is much smaller than Vera, and she was placed under a platform near to her new living companion.
She did not need sedating as deeply as Vera did, and awoke quickly after the transfer. Instantaneously Citra tried to climb the platforms and ironwood, but initially, the sedation did dampen her abilities to do so.
As a result, her bouts of energy came in waves but once her drowsiness disappeared there was no stopping her! She completely embraced her new surroundings and explored the whole island, all the while using the climbing structures we have fixed for them. She has rarely been seen on the ground since being on the island is certainly the most active of the 3!
When Papa was released 2 days later, Citra showed great interest in his release and almost came to say hello at one point! She has been extremely curious of Papa and we have been observing her trying to approach him, but unfortunately for Citra, Papa has shown little interest in her for now. Like Vera, she is also eating well and looking healthy!
The patriarch of the 3 orangutans, he was released onto the island on Monday 4th of December at 9.00 am.
After Romeo, Papa is the second oldest orangutan at the sanctuary and we have seen that he is the most noticeably stressed orangutan that we have at the sanctuary; he rarely looks happy and likes to pretend he doesn’t care about anything when in fact he is the complete opposite! This is a typical trait of a dominant flanged male orangutan, and these traits also include a slight dislike of men in addition to becoming stressed very easily.
His past mistreatment and misfortunes have unfortunately caused him to be a very scared soul, but this is why it is so wonderful that BOSF are now able to give him a better life after so long.
In addition to this, we cannot stress how important the role is that volunteers have played in making this possible. It's because of volunteer efforts in constructing the platforms on the islands, creating enrichment for the orangutans and so much more that this has all been possible. These orangutans will be able to live out their lives in a comfortable environment, and this is partially down to our amazing volunteers!
Papa woke up relatively fast once on the island but was very drowsy from his sedation medicine. This is, however, completely normal and he spent most of the morning sleeping off the sedation under the shelter of the new platform. I was unable to observe Papa after this, as I had to attend the release of 5 more orangutans later that morning.
However on return to Samboja I checked in with the keepers to see how he was doing, which is when I discovered he hadn’t paid much attention to the females. This was not a surprise though as we had predicted this may happen due to his previous disinterest in interacting with females at the sanctuary.
As soon as Papa saw myself and Wiwik, he rose from his sleeping position and tried to show how powerful he was with a display of shaking branches at us! He then went on to settle down and pretended to ignore us, but he didn’t realise we could see him constantly slyly glancing over to see if we were still there. Each time we came in his view, Papa would express these displays of dominance, then settle down and secretly glance at us once more.
Normally, an orangutan will check their entire territory first when in a new area, but the keepers informed me that Papa had not yet been seen to have done this. The keeps have noticed that he likes to spend his time between the spot where he was released and up on the platforms where he sits for large amounts of time. This suggests he is not confident in his new home just yet, much like Vera. This is likely due to the large number of years he has had to spend in a smaller area, and Papa may find his new habitat quite daunting because of this.
With an orangutan like Papa who is so mentally scarred, the adaption process towards living in his new territory may take some time and it may be a while before he builds the confidence to explore the larger areas of the island. However, Papa is a very strong-minded individual and he will eventually realise he has an entire new kingdom to call his own.
In light of these circumstances, he is also eating well and looking healthy.
Interestingly since the new females entered island 4 and papa. Romeo who is as confident as ever on the island next to them has been spending most of his time at their end of the island suggesting he is very interested in whats going on over there! Papa has not yet ventured to that edge of the island, but he will.
Releasing orangutans is always an emotional time, and you have to expect for the orangutans to be unsure about their new surroundings. The psychological damage many of these orangutans have suffered does make changes in their lives overwhelming and intimidating. However, different orangutans respond in different ways, and this is certainly the case with Vera, Citra and Papa. However with time, and as we have seen with Romeo and Eve and more, they will adapt and fully enjoy their new lease of life.
Once again, we want to thank the incredible, dedicated and hardworking team at Bos F, along with the superstar volunteers, as without all of you none of this would be possible. Thanks to these incredible people, these orangutans can finally start to live the life they deserve.
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