Fog enveloped Nyaru Menteng after an overnight rain. Just like on the first day however, the release team still got up early today and began preparations for today’s release activities at 4.30 am sharp. A short message from Puruk Cahu confirming great weather heightened our spirits today, which also happens to be Indonesia’s Independence Day. Today, August 17, 2013, we are celebrating the nation’s 68thanniversary of freedom by sending the remaining nine orangutans to Puruk Cahu and Batikap, the last group of a total of 18 orangutan release candidates, to their freedom.
Uban was the first to be sedated. The cheek-padded male had not fully fallen asleep when he was carried out of his quarantine enclosure. His lips and hands were still moving slightly when the technicians touched him. The big 82-kg orangutan needed five people to transfer him from the enclosure to his travel cage.
Just like Bonet yesterday, Mongki also had a hard time falling asleep. He woke up during the process of transferring him from the quarantine enclosures to his travel cage. But he, too, soon fell asleep.
While another cheek-padded male, Max, seemed bothered by the presence of technicians and vets around his quarantine enclosure. He pounded the enclosure’s bars and threw chunks of rubber tires at the team. Eventually, the team succeeded in sedating Max and transferred him smoothly to his travel cage.
Little Georgina cried when she had to be temporarily separated from her mother, Matilda. Matilda, who was already fast asleep, was immediately transferred into her travel cage by several technicians while Georgina was gently carried away by another technician. Hearing her cries really made us all very sad thinking how many baby orangutans like her had been forcefully parted from their mothers and how they must be crying and screaming in vain to mothers who could no longer hear them. After Georgina took her final deworming medicine, a technician carried her back and put her carefully on Matilda’s tummy. The 2 year-old immediately hugged her mother tightly.
While waiting for the sedation effects to work on Astria, who was still wide awake and jumping around in her quarantine enclosure, other orangutans in their travel cages were loaded on the truck and the double-cabin four-wheeler. A vet also took the time to check Nielsen’s and Astria’s teeth. According to Anton Nurcahyo, Nyaru Menteng Program Manager, orangutans born on pre-release islands or in a rehabilitation center usually have healthier teeth compared to wild-born orangutans. Astria does not only have healthy teeth. She is also arguably the prettiest orangutan in Nyaru Menteng with beautiful long eyelashes. She will be a charmer in the forest one day!
After everything was ready and the team had eaten a quick breakfast, we departed to Tjilik Riwut Airport in Palangka Raya where a Pelita Air fixed-wing aircraft was already waiting to fly the orangutans to Dirung Airport in Puruk Cahu.
A Perfect Day for Freedom
Upon arrival at the airport, we didn’t immediately load the travel cages onto the plane because the airport staff were attending a flag ceremony to commemorate Indonesia’s anniversary. Furthermore, Dirung Airport was reported foggy. But not long after, around 8.30 am, the loading process began.
At 9 am, the Pelita Air flight took off taking Uban and friends to Puruk Cahu. Vet Meryl, technician Tedison and a staff member from the Central Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Authority (BKSDA), Iwan Sujatmiko, accompanied the orangutans on their way to Puruk Cahu.
With the weather on our side, it only took around 45 minutes to fly to Puruk Cahu. As soon as the plane landed, all travel cages were unloaded without delay. Four of them consisting of Matilda and Georgina, Astria, Mita, and Max were loaded and secured in the sling load straight away, ready to fly again to Karangan Monnu area in Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest. Having received a report from Batikap that the weather there was also clear, the helicopter took off at 10.15 am.
The remaining four orangutans waited at the airport accompanied by technicians and vets to look after them. Vet Meryl prepared some milk for them and because Uban seemed to be more anxious than the others, the big male was getting extra milk! Sure enough, Uban calmed down after drinking all his milk (and eating a lot of bananas).
When the helicopter returned from Batikap, the pilot reported that Batikap was indeed very sunny. Therefore we didn’t waste any time preparing Lona, Nielsen, Uban and Mongki to go to their new forest home. Shortly after lunch, the helicopter took off again to Batikap.
Freedom in the Forest!
The helicopter came back with a flash-disk containing great news and several photos from our team in Batikap. All orangutans have been successfully released!
In Batikap, Matilda and Georgina’s travel cage was the first to be opened today. Technician Arfan opened the cage and Matilda didn’t even look back. With her daughter Georgina clinging on her tightly, she stormed out and climbed a tree. Matilda oldest daughter Astria was the next to be released. She too immediately got out, grabbed a liana and used it to swing to another tree, catching up with her mother and sister.
Then Mita’s travel cage was opened by technician Nanggau. Just like Matilda and Astria, Mita climbed a tree straight away. She then moved to a bigger tree.
Next, technician Owang opened Max’s travel cage. Max was a bit aggressive. When he got out, he turned around and chased the team away with a stick. The team decided to give Max his space. After being left alone, Max calmed down and soon disappeared into the forest. Lona, Uban and Mongki also showed aggressive display behavior indicating that they are ready to be true wild orangutans.
While yesterday, the first four orangutans were also released successfully. Mama Mozzy carrying her daughter Myzo immediately found a tree in front of her and climbed away. Lulu, Arun, and Bule, just like Max, Lona, Uban and Mongki, were somewhat unhappy with the team’s presence. The team had to back away in order to give them enough space to let them settle down. Lulu even took her time to shake and kick her travel cage around, probably fiercely stating that she will never go back living in a cage ever again. You won’t have to, Lulu…
Four More to Go!
As the day was getting quite late, the four remaining orangutans who didn’t get to fly yesterday because of bad weather have to stay yet another day in the transit enclosures at the compound of PT Indomuro Kencana (IMK). Vet Barlian is on standby to accompany and look after Ubai, Bonet, Tehang and Monmon. Their turn will come tomorrow morning. Let’s hope for another perfect day for freedom!
Text by: Media Romadona & Rini Sucahyo