The day started early in Puruk Cahu. From 7 am, bittersweet excitement was in the air. We were about to send our beloved Maradona, Sempung, Sumbing, Jessica, Abam, Onceng, Mama Ebol and Ebol on their final homebound journey!
Vet Meryl started the day by preparing anesthetics to sedate the eight orangutans. Then, darting expert, Hendro, made sure all our orangutans were prepared for transfer to their travel cages to complete the last leg of their trip.
The First Group
The team aimed to keep stress to a minimum for the orangutans. Sempung was the first to be sedated, followed by Maradona, Jessica and Abam. Interestingly, Abam was the first to fall asleep! Maradona, because he was a big lad, was the hardest to sedate, but he eventually also fell asleep.
In the meantime, the technicians were preparing the travel cages. By the time the first group of orangutans (Sempung, Maradona, Jessica, Abam) were sedated, all of the travel cages are ready to go, filled with comfy leaves to sleep/sit on and yummy food. Then, we carefully transferred the orangutans into each of their travel cages.
The next step was loading the travel cages onto a truck. Then we were off to IMK helipad. When we arrived, the staff of IMK were seen busy cleaning and preparing the helipad. In no time, the helipad was ready, the first four travel cages had been unloaded from the truck and loaded onto the sling, and all we had to do was wait for the helicopter to arrive.
Unfortunately, it was very cloudy and foggy in Batikap this morning. So the pilots decided to delay the flight. But at around 10.25 am, we received news that the sky around Batikap has started to clear up and the sun was slightly peeking through thinning moving clouds. And thus the pilots were dispatched and the helicopter was on the way to IMK.
Minutes later, the helicopter landed safely at IMK helipad. The sling was checked and secured. And at 11.20, they were off! We were a bit sad to see them go, especially the lovely Maradona.
The Second Group
By this time, we had received some more news from Batikap that the sun was shinning and that we could go ahead and send the final four orangutans home! So back at the transit enclosures, we sedated Sumbing, Mama Ebol, Ebol and Onceng. This time, little Ebol was the first to fall asleep, and naturally, Sumbing was the last.
The next four travel cages were also waiting to take this second group home. And as we did before, we transferred the orangutans one by one into their travel cages.
Maradona, Jessica, Sempung & Abam are Home!
In the midst of this preparation, we received news again from Batikap. The first group has been released successfully! Sempung and Jessica have moved off together and made nests in the same tree. Abam immediately climbed a tree and also made a nest to rest. And Maradona made a long call already, claiming the area as his new kingdom!
It was a great decision to release them at an entirely new points in Batikap – away from the first 15 orangutans – because otherwise Maradona’s long call would really annoy Tarzan and a fight could be inevitable.
The Second Group’s Departure
At the transit enclosures, all of the remaining orangutans had all been transferred into the travel cages and we were off again to IMK helipad. Once we were there, the travel cages were immediately loaded onto the sling while waiting for the helicopter to return from Batikap. The sun was bright and the weather was pleasant. We hoped that it was also pleasant in Batikap.
The helicopter finally returned and landed at IMK helipad. Again, we did final checks, ensuring the sling was secured and the orangutans were all fine inside the travel cages, then, at approximately 1.52 pm, the final helicopter took off with Onceng, Sumbing, Mama Ebol and sweet little Ebol. Tears of joy!
Sumbing, Onceng, Mama Ebol & Ebol are Home!
It is now 4.30 pm at the Headquarters in Bogor and we are happy to report that the final group has been released in Batikap. Onceng was still a little tired from sedation when her cage was opened, but she was fine and soon climbed a tree. Sumbing was the same, still a little sedated, but recovered in no time and climbed a tree.
Mama Ebol and her daughter Ebol, still in the travel cages, were taken down river on a traditional Dayak longboat and were later released near the helipad. All orangutans are happy and healthy and are now resting. It is their first night home.
Welcome home Maradona, Jessica, Sempung, Abam,
Sumbing, Onceng, Mama Ebol and Ebol!
The Team from Nyaru Menteng were as usual, amazing! Congratulations to you all! And thanks to BHP Billiton and IMK for the wonderful support.
We will update you again with the first few adventures of our newly released orangutans once we establish further contact with the Batikap Team. Thank you for following and supporting the orangutan journey!