Tuesday February 28, 2012, at around 10 am, the Release Team waited by the helipad in Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest, ready for the arrival of the first two orangutans, Tantri and Monic. The Village Chief of Tumbang Tohan – the nearest village from our camp – and several Dayak cultural leaders also waited with us, eager to witness this first release.
After waiting for almost an hour, we heard the sound of a helicopter high above us. And soon enough, it landed smoothly.
Appointed technicians approached the helipad after it stopped completely. On this flight, Tantri and Monic were accompanied by vet Agus Fahroni and technician Ahmad Syarief, and also Jacqui Sunderland-Groves, our Senior Advisor to CEO, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.
The technicians carried Tantri’s and Monic’s transport cages to their release points in the forest. Agus opened Tantri’s cage first because she is the youngest among all the candidates.
Tantri’s first expression was so touching. She didn’t climb a tree immediately. Instead, she climbed on top of Monic’s cage that was located not very far from her, and sat there for a brief moment. She looked around in amazement as if to say, “Forest! I’m free! Or am I dreaming?”. Tantri didn’t wait for long though and to ensure she wasn’t dreaming, she climbed up the nearest tree and sat happily in the forest canopy.
After seeing Tantri safe and happy in a tree, it was Monic’s turn to be released. Agus opened her cage. Unlike Tantri, Monic wasn’t confused at all. She immediately chose a tree, not far from Tantri’s, and climbed up and up. Then, she chose a branch to finally rest after that long and tiring journey.
The same helicopter returned to pick up Astrid and Tarzan from the IMK helipad, located close to Puruk Cahu, and flew them to Bukit Batikap. It landed at Bukit Batikap around 1.30 pm. Accompanying the two orangutans were vet Maryos Vigoury Tandang, technican Taufik, Nyaru Menteng Program Manager Anton Nurcahyo and BOS Foundation’s CEO Dr. Jamartin Sihite.
Wasting no time at all, Astrid was carried to the release point in the forest and Anton opened her cage. Just like Monic, Astrid showed no sign of uncertainty and happily climbed up a tree right away.
Last but not least, we returned to the helicopter to bring Tarzan home. The team had decided that Tarzan, who is an adult male, would be released a bit further from the first three younger females to give him more time to adjust to his new environment.
Arriving at his release point, Tarzan had not fully recovered from the sedation and was still asleep. Vet Agus finally decided to give him a sedative reversal to wake him up and not long after, Tarzan started to move his hands. Unfortunately, the helicopter pilot had called passengers to board as dark clouds started to approach. Some of us had to go.
So we left Tarzan in the capable and caring hands of Vet Agus, technicians and also the Monitoring Team led by Anna Marzec and Scientific Advisor Simon Husson. But just a moment before the helicopter took off, we saw a technician waving his hands frantically towards us and screamed excitedly, “Tarzan has climbed up a tree!”
We could feel tears of joy on each of our faces. Tantri, Monic, Astrid and Tarzan are home!
Good bye, our friends. Thank you for the unfortunate yet incredible chance to get to know all of you. Take good care of yourselves in the forest and rest assured we’ll be keeping a watchful eye over you all!