The Batikap Team shares their story (and photos) of the day of release!
All morning the cloud and fog persisted over the release location in Batikap, but our dedicated orangutan Release and Monitoring Team waited patiently from early morning in the hope that the weather would clear and the helicopters could safely bring in the newest release candidates, who were also patiently waiting in IMK for this important day to begin!
Fortunately, around 10.25 am the cloud and fog slowly lifted. Blue sky appeared and the sunshine touched the faces of all the Batikap Team members who immediately contacted the release team in IMK by satellite phone to report that the weather conditions in Batikap had sufficiently improved. Once done, the team stood by and waited for the helicopter sling loading the first 4 orangutans to arrive.
At 11.40 am, the helicopter appeared from behind the hill on the north side of release location (Point 1, Camp Monnu). The helicopter circled slowly over the release point before gently setting down the first group of travel cages, containing Abam, Sempung, Jessica and Maradona. Once successfully on the ground, the team quickly but carefully unharnessed the sling and removed the travel cages.
Our team consisted of a trained Helicopter Landing Officer, a Veterinarian, a First Aid Officer and experienced orangutan Technicians and Monitors; safety is at the forefront of our release operations and all of our team members had clear tasks to perform during each release directed by our Camp Manager, Ahmat.
Once the orangutans were safely carried away from the set down point, the helicopter flew back to IMK to collect the second orangutan group. Over the next hour, the team carried Abam’s travel cage to his release location in the forest, a few hundred meters from helicopter landing point. Veterinarian, Meriam opened the cage, and Abam quickly ran out and climbed the nearest tree as high as he could and immediately constructed a nest. It seemed that the long trip from Nyaru Menteng to Batikap tired Abam out and he needed a nice and comfortable rest in his new home.
Sempung and Jessica
The release of the next three orangutans Sempung, Jessica and Maradona took place across the river so first the orangutans had to be moved by boat. Jessica and Sempung were transported in the first boat and perhaps due to the close proximity of their release points, not long after both of them were released, this orangutan couple nested in the same tree. Hopefully they will become a great couple and have sweet orangutan babies in the future!
Maradona, as the last orangutan to be released in this first group was released a couple of hundred meters from the point 1 landing site. Just like our other alpha male orangutans, the moment his transport cage was opened, Maradona quickly climbed the nearest tree and settled himself down in a comfortable position. Not long after, Maradona made a nice loud long call to mark his territory in his new and peaceful home.
The next 4
After the first orangutan group had been successfully released, the team waited for the arrival of Onceng, Sumbing, Ebol and Mama Ebol.
The afternoon sky was much clearer and helicopter had no problem in flying directly to Batikap. As with the first group, the process of sling loading and setting orangutans down at Point 1 went smoothly.
Onceng was the first orangutan to be released from this second group, however because the effect of sedation and the long trip, instead of directly climbing a tree, Onceng preferred to sit down in a large dead branch below a big tree and happily ate fruits that scattered around her.
Next was Sumbing’s turn and once his transport cage was opened, slowly but surely he made his way to a big tree and climbed up as high as he could before taking a rest in his new wild and beautiful home.
Unlike the previous orangutans who were all released around point 1, Mama Ebol and Ebol were taken on a two-hour trip by boat before reaching their release point, close to our main camp – this was by design to enable us to keep a special eye on Ebol and Mama Ebol’s behavior. Mama Ebol was the first to be released, and without wasting a moment as soon as her travel cage was opened, she climbed to freedom up a tree in this natural jungle at heart of Borneo.
Mama Ebol’s daughter, Ebol, was the last orangutan to be released. Due to her relatively young age, Ebol slowly and carefully took her first steps to climb a tree. It will take some time for Ebol to fully adapt to her new environment, since from the age of two years old she has spent her life in an enclosure under the constant supervision of her mother. We’ll be monitoring both Ebol and her mother carefully over the next months.
After another action-packed day, night-time arrived all too quickly. The third orangutan release from Nyaru Menteng had been successfully accomplished, and both the team at Batikap and the orangutans could take a well-deserved rest! It will be an early start for the team again tomorrow with the scheduled monitoring activities both of these 8 orangutans, and the 15 released earlier in the year to continue…