January in a Glimpse: From the Flooded Camp to a Surprise Visit!

Since the New Year and the exciting news of Atsuko’s birth, work in Batikap is returning to normal. The year started with a flash-flood on New Years Eve, inundating the whole camp. Luckily we managed to get all our equipment and supplies on to table-tops before the water level peaked around 8am.  Many of our team turned to their villages for an extended break over the Christmas period, to visit family, recharge their batteries and in Joy’s case, to get married! but now we are back to full-strength in Camp Totatjaro. The monitoring team have focused on our main task of finding each of the 44 orangutans we have released into Batikap. We try and see each of them as regularly as possible to make sure they are in good health, but this is easier for some orangutans than others. Astrid and Tarzan live close to camp so we often see them, but others live much further away and are usually only located by radio-tracking without a visual observation being made. Finding some of these orangutans takes a lot of effort.

The year started with a flash-flood on New Years Eve, inundating the whole camp.

The year started with a flash-flood on New Years Eve, inundating the whole camp.

Last week we sent a team to Camp Monnu at the far north of our release area, 1.5 hours by boat from the main camp, where they split up and searched for orangutans living up there. The first orangutans they were found were Jamiat and Gundul, feeding together in the same tree. This is close to where Gundul, a young female, was released, but 5km away from where Jamiat was released in November. The next orangutan found was Giant, and later in the afternoon the large flanged male Sempung was seen and followed for a short while. This was the first time each of these four orangutans had been seen since their release, so this was particularly exciting for Sempung who was released last August. All four orangutans are in good health and all were a little aggressive to our observers, kiss-squeaking and shaking branches.

As well as these sightings we heard long-calls from Maradona, another flanged adult male who seems to be asserting his dominance over the north of the release area in the same way that Tarzan is dominant in the south. We also picked up transmitter signals of Gusti, Paluy, Kopi, Chanel, Jamal and Iyos in this northern region.

During January we have spent some time with four of the rehabilitant females and their offspring that we released in November. Sif, Gadis, Leonora and Emen have all been followed and data collected to assess their adaptation to their new wild environment. We are very pleased with their progress to date, they are eating well and for the most part staying high in the canopy and not approaching us when we observe them. Leonora still comes to the ground fairly regularly to forage and Emen occasionally likes to hang around near the river to see passing boats.

Emen and Embong

Emen and Embong

A few days ago the team in camp were treated to the visit of Tarzan and Monic. They walked through the back of camp together before climbing a tree and feeding on fruit for the afternoon, then making their nests together at edge of camp. The team kept the noise down for the evening so not to disturb them! Tarzan is certainly keeping a close eye on Monic at the moment.

Text and Photos by: Simon Husson – Scientific Advisor

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