“The Great Ape Escape”, coming soon on BBC 2!

Leonora and her son Lamar, with 19 other orangutans went back home to their natural habitat in Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest in November 2012. Before the release, they had completed the rehabilitation process in Nyaru Menteng and inhabited the pre-release Island where they underwent the final phase of rehabilitation process.

Now they live in their true home and put the skills they have learnt at the rehabilitation center to use!


Watch the challenging, yet touching reintroduction process in “The Great Ape Escape” on BBC 2, October 4 2013, 9 PM GMT.

Orangutans: The Great Ape Escape


Learning and Playing Time for the Young Orangutans in Batikap

It has been raining in Bukit Batikap for the last month, but the chilly weather doesn’t make the young orangutans and their mothers any less playful.  After raining all night long, they emerge from their nests to dry their hair and continue their activities as always.  The youngsters are busy playing and learning the much needed survival skills  from their mothers. Amazing days in Bukit Batikap and wonderful to see how our young orangutans are developing!

Garu is Learning How to Build a Nest

Garu has now started to play all by herself and no longer sticks to her mother constantly.  Sometimes she even plays several meters away from her Mum Gadis! She is becoming very skillful at swinging from one branch to another, while Gadis still watches her daughter closely.


Garu has now started to play all by herself. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

Garu is adapting very well to her new environment.  The Monitoring team’s observation results show that Garu enjoys a variety of food in the forest. When they followed the mother and daughter pair, Garu was busy playing in a forest Rose Apple tree [Myrtaceae Syzygium sp.] which was fruiting. Sometimes they climbed so high up that it was difficult for the team to observe them.

Gadis wasn’t really bothered by the sight of the Monitoring Team around them, but Garu was pretty annoyed.  Upon realising the team’s presence, Garu kiss-squeaked several times towards them showing her disapproval. This is very natural for orangutans to show their dislike towards humans who are too close for their comfort.

Garu kiss-squeaked several times. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

Garu kiss-squeaked several times. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

During midday when it’s time to rest and relax, after spending her morning playing happily, Garu tries to build a nest just like her mother does. The nests she builds are not yet perfect, but she looks content and satisfied and uses them as her place to rest.

Lamar, the Forager

Little Lamar is not weaned yet, but he now happily tries the foods his mother eats. He follows the example of Mum, Leonora who loves eating the juicy pith of rattan (Arecaceae) and wild ginger (Zingiberaceae) and the bark of the Korot tree (Moraceae Artocarpus sp.). Lamar also loves termites. The Monitoring Team observed Lamar sitting on a branch of a tree holding termite nest and skillfully fishing the termites out of it. What a smart boy!

Little Lamar skillfully fishing the termites. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

Little Lamar skillfully fishing the termites. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

Just like Garu, Lamar is now starting to play by himself, away from his mother Leonora. Sometimes he attempts to entice Leonora to play, but she is not really keen on playing every minute of the day, so Lamar often plays by himself albeit never too far from her. He swings from one branch to another, all the time learning how to choose the right branches to travel safely through the trees.

Despite her indifferent appereance, Leonora is a watchful mother. She keeps an eye while Lamar plays and acts very cautious towards her surroundings, including the Monitoring Team. Both Leonora and Lamar are developing their wild behaviours and spend most time in the trees, showing their disapproval towards the Monitoring Team’s presence.

Coping with Life in the Wild

The skin on Sif’s back has been irritating her and was clearly itchy from a tree sap she had been in contact with.  This has resulted in some patches of baldness on her back.  These things happen in the wild so Sif and her daughter Sifa will adapt and learn as time goes by, just like the others.

Despite this, Sif still spends most of her time in the trees with Sifa.  They both look healthy and they eat a lot! The pair consume various foods, including fruit, leaves, shoots, cambium and insects.  Sifa learns survival skills intensively from her mother, including where and how to find edible food in the forest.

Like most orangutans, Sif and Sifa who are becoming more and more wild . Sif is very protective of her daughter, especially when something is deemed dangerous. Sifa, like the other infants, will kiss-squeak and produce a pig-like vocalisation towards the Team, showing her annoyance.

Embong playing and devouring some fruit by himself. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

Embong playing and devouring some fruit by himself. -Photo by: Adhy Maruly

And that’s also how it also is with Emen’s family.  Emen is very protective towards her child, Embong. Despite his growing ability in swinging among the trees and playing by himself, Emen still pays full attention to Embong and his movements. The Monitoring Team observed Embong playing and devouring some fruit by himself a few meters away from his Mother.

It is very delightful to see these families coping very well with their new life and newly acquired freedom in the wild!  We hope soon that more orangutans from our rehabilitation centers can also enjoy life in their true home in the forest.


Text by: Ike Naya Silana