Journey of our Advance Team from Nyaru Menteng to Bukit Batikap
In preparation for our fifth orangutan release into Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest, a team consisting of highly experienced technicians from Nyaru Menteng, our own HLO (Helicopter Landing Officer) trained personnel, and our media/ documentation team departed from Nyaru Menteng to join the release and monitoring team who are based fulltime at Totat Jalu Camp in Bukit Batikap.
Reaching our camp in Batikap takes between two to three days, depending on the weather, using cars and boats. The team left Palangka Raya at midday on the 9th of February and stayed overnight at Camp Menyalap in Dirung village after a journey of almost 12 hours by car. Early the next morning the journey continued by speedboat for 3 hours to Camp B, a small transit camp for coalmining workers. From Camp B, the team proceeded using ces (kelotok-boat) for another 4 hours to Tumbang Naan, a small village close to Batikap, where they rested for the second night. On day three the journey continued from Tumbang Naan, another 3 hours by ces to Tumbang Tohan. From here the last leg of the trip is a 3 hour ces ride to Totat Jalu Camp. The team finally arrived at camp at around 8 pm on February 11th.
The release preparations in the field start several days before each event and two days before the orangutans were due to arrive, the team re-checked the condition at the actual release points to ensure access on the day.
Four release points had been prepared for a total 20 orangutans; four individuals were planned to be released in the forest just behind the camp (close to the helipad), another six (2 mother and infant units and two females) along the Joloi River, and the remaining 10 (two mother and infant units plus others) to be released at two points along the Teneng River.
The day before the first orangutans were due to arrive, the release team conducted a simulation at camp to test equipment and final practice for the transport cage carriers. The team also cleared the helipad to remove any possible debris which could potentially be a danger if caught up by the wind generated by the arrival of the helicopter.
The morning of the first day of the scheduled release, when everyone was busy with final preparations, we had a special guest arrive. Tarzan, the dominant male orangutan who was released back in February 2012, visited us at the camp! He made hispresence known through several long calls before finally showing up and tucking in to the fruits at the back of the camp.
Day 1 – 10 Orangutans Were Released on Valentine’s Day
The first load of orangutans were transported by Squirrel helicopter in a sling-load at 9 am. They were Darsi, Edwan, Rahmat, and Klowor and all were released at the point behind Totat Jalu Camp on the bank of Posu River. Darsi, the lucky number one, was released earlier than the others as we hoped that as the only female, the other three orangutans which were males, would follow her into the forest instead of wandering around the release point. Following Darsi were Edwan, Rahmat, and Klowor’s turn to be released.
As the transport cage was opened, Darsi who we thought was still possibly a little drowsy from the sedative, climbed straight up the tree in front of her. She didn’t hesitate at all as she climbed up to the top of the tree. She rested once in a while and made several nests to nap. Late in the afternoon, she tried to make a good nest for the night but Rahmat kept following her, so she ended up making five nests until Rahmat finally gave up bothering her!
Klowor had already begun eating the food in his transport cage before we deemed him fit and recovered from sedation, hence he was next for release.
Edwan was next and went straight up the nearest tree as soon as the door of the transport cage was opened. According to the monitoring team who followed him, he went on to eat termites which he found nesting in some tree bark, and at 10.30am he made nest and rested for about an hour. He finally made his night nest not far from his release point at around 5pm. He actually spent most of the day with Klowor until they finally separated at 4.30pm when Klowor decided to explore further into the forest. They didn’t seem annoyed or intimidated much by Tarzan’s long calls.
The second helicopter trip brought Lupita, Manggo, Centil and her baby Ross, and Markisa and her baby Uli. These orangutans were released at a point by the Joloi River. Centil and Ross were released first, followed by Markisa and Uli, Manggo –who is Markisa’s first child-, and Lupita.
It was an interesting moment to see Centil when the transport cage was finally opened. She stepped outside carrying Ross, took a look around, and went back in to get a corn on the cob! With the corn safely in her hand, she climbed onto a liana and rested while enjoying the corn. She didn’t go very far from her release point, hence the monitoring team who were assigned to follow her didn’t really have to walk far! She enjoyed Ficus sp.or Lunuk fruit around the release point and her eyes never left Ross who ventured by herself not far from her mother. Once in a while Centil would also watch us and they finally made a nest at 5 pm around 50m from the release point.
Markisa and Uli stayed together with Manggo after being released. Uli played with Manggo while Markisa enjoyed fruit around her.
Lupita travelled pretty far from the release point, even though she was still recovering from the trip. She didn’t climb right away, instead she walked on the ground and hung around for a while on a low hanging liana. When she finally went into the forest, we were surprised by her pig-like sound, indicating that she was angry. Apparently a squirrel surprised her! She tried to hit the squirrel but missed and the squirrel ran away. Not long after, she made pig-like sound again. This time she seemed to have been surprised by a passing Hornbill. Lupita really needs to learn that the forest is full of other creatures.
We called it a day at 5.30 pm when everyone finally made their nests and were clearly ready to rest. Tomorrow, we still have another 10 orangutans to be released, and the story will be continued…