Day 4: Three Orangutans Return to East Kalimantan

Today was the last day of the 7th orangutan release event from the BOS Foundation Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Nyaru Menteng and the first cross-province orangutan release from Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program (Nyaru Menteng) to the Kehje Sewen forest in East Kalimantan. This first cross-province orangutan release involved the collaboration of three of our programs – Nyaru Menteng, Samboja Lestari, and Orangutan Habitat Restoration (RHO).  Although complicated to organise, these activities are critical in order to ensure the preservation of this unique species.

Following the required DNA testing procedure prior to any planned orangutan reintroduction event and in line with national and international (IUCN) guidelines, the BOS Foundation received information that eight of our orangutans were not situated in the correct geographical locations.  Although these orangutans had been through years of rehabilitation at our two Orangutan Rehabilitation Centers, 5 orangutans located at Samboja Lestari in East Kalimantan were of Central Kalimantan provenance hence we relocated those individuals to our centre at Nyaru Menteng on Thursday 28 November 2013.  Furthermore and located at Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, DNA test results showed that three orangutans – mother-daughter Sayang and Yayang, along with an adult female, Diah – were Pongo pygmaeus morio, which naturally occur in the eastern part of Kalimantan.  A transfer process had to be carried out.

Yayang, Sayang and Diah

At 14.31 WITA, a Twin Otter fixed-wing aircraft carried Yayang, Sayang, and Diah from Central Kalimantan to Sepinggan Airport, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. This journey was accompanied by Program Manager of Samboja Lestari drh. Agus Irwantotechnician Imam Ghozali, and Media Romadona, BOS Foundation’s Communications Officer. Diah was the first to be unloaded from the aircraft, followed by Yayang and Sayang.

They were unloaded from the aircraft.

After the cages were unloaded, the three orangutans were transferred to bigger travel cages so that they could move much more freely since the next part of the journey to Swakarsa airport would take approximately 20 hours by road.  Safe in their travel cages, these orangutans were then loaded onto a truck. At exactly 15.00 WITA on Saturday 30 November 2013, the team led by our Coordinator of Animal Welfare and Forest School 3, Wiwik Astutik departed to Swakarsa Airport.

Moved to a bigger travel cage.

Kehje Sewen Forest: Release Points and Helipad Preparation

The previous day, and within our Ecosystem Restoration Concession (ERC) the Kehje Sewen Forest, the team had been busy preparing everything for the arrival of Yayang, Sayang, and Diah, including ensuring the helipad and the exact locations in the forest where we would release these three orangutans were ready.

Preparing release and helipad area.


Final Trip to Kehje Sewen

Traveling all night, at 08.09 WITA on 1 December 2013, the truck transporting Yayang, Sayang, and Diah arrived at Swakarsa Airport. drh. Anin continuously checked the condition of the three orangutans during the journey and they were all declared in good health on arrival.

Yayang-Sayang was being continuously checked by dr. Anin.

Meanwhile in Kehje Sewen, the weather was beautiful and clear and brought hope that today’s activity would go as planned.  Everything during these finely detailed transport operations depends on good weather!  A day of rain can mean that we have to delay all operations and we plan for every eventuality.

Kehje Sewen in the morning.

Not long after, the helicopter that would take the orangutans to Kehje Sewen arrived at Swakarsa Airport and immediately refueled in order to continue the journey to the forest.  While waiting, the pilot prepared the sling line and cargo net that would be used to carry Yayang, Sayang, and Diah.

Checking the sling and cargo net.

When the helicopter was ready, Yayang, Sayang, and Diah were carried and secured safely into the cargo net. Yayang and Sayang were the first to be loaded, followed by Diah.

Yayang-Sayang and Diah were moved into a cargo net.

The helicopter was ready to take Yayang, Sayang, and Diah home and at exactly 10:32 WITA, the helicopter flew to the Kehje Sewen Forest.  It had been a very long journey for both the orangutans and our team and although delighted to see the orangutans finally go back to the wild, we couldn’t help but feel a mixed emotions between happiness and sadness to say goodbye to Yayang, Sayang, and Diah.

Ready to take off to Kehje Sewen forest.

Welcome Home, Yayang-Sayang, and Diah!

At 11.00 WITA, the roar of helicopter propeller was heard getting closer and closer to Camp 103 in the Kehje Sewen forest. Not long after, the helicopter was seen from afar and flew closer to the helipad carrying Yayang-Sayang and Diah’s travel cages in the cargo net.

Safely landed in Kehje Sewen.

When the two cages in the cargo net touched the ground and the helicopter landed perfectly nearby, Helicopter Landing Officer (HLO) Masino from Samboja Lestari along with the rest of the team proceeded to open the cargo net and retrieve the cages. Vet Dermawan Saputra from Samboja Lestari immediately checked the condition of the three orangutans who all looked healthy.

drh. Putra checked the orangutans condition.

After all three of the orangutans were checked by drh. Putra, the team then prepared to carry the three female orangutans to their pre-assigned release points.

Helicopter departed to Balikpapan

Since  landing in Kehje Sewen, Diah was clearly upset by the presence of the team near to her. Several times she smacked her cage and looked angry when the team were busily securing her cage, in order to easily carry her to her release point. Meanwhile, Yayang looked relaxed, even though her daughter Sayang kiss-squeaked at the team several times.

Cages were ready to be carried to the release point.

The team immediately carried Yayang-Sayang and Diah’s cages to the release points. As soon as the team went into the forest, the three orangutans calmed down. Diah was no longer upset. She looked relaxed, lying down in her cage while the team carried her cage with great effort. Sayang clung to her Mum. Often her small fingers reached out between the bars, trying to grab the rope around her cage, as if she could not wait to get out.

The team carried the cages to the release point.

The release points of the mother-daughter and adult female orangutans were on the west side of Camp 103. Yayang and Sayang’s release point was 1.8 km from Camp, while Diah’s release point was 1.5 km from Camp. It took a fairly long time for the team to carry Yayang-Sayang and Diah to their release points due to the rugged terrain. After 1.5 hours, Yayang-Sayang and Diah finally reached the destination.

Yayang and Sayang at the release point.


Yayang-Sayang and Diah are Finally Home

Yayang and Sayang’s travel cage was opened by Ario Sambodo, Head of the Operational Department of RHOI at exactly 01:28 pm.  As soon as the cage was opened, little Sayang directly dashed out of the cage. Followed by her mother, Yayang, they both climbed the nearest tree in full confidence.   All of those years on the pre-release islands in Central Kalimantan had given these two orangutans an immense learning experience of surviving in the forest.

Ariyo Sambodo opened Yayang and Sayang’s cage.

Yayang and Sayang then grabbed some Calamus sp., Croton arygyratus and Epiphyte leaves and consumed them hungrily. Sayang swung from one tree to another briskly.  Sometimes Yayang grabbed her daughter’s hand to make sure that she was not traveling too far away. If that didn’t work, Yayang simply followed  her daughter Sayang wherever she went.

Yayang and Sayang, first moments of their freedom.

Meanwhile, Diah’s cage was opened by Azwar. He is one of the first team of experts who conducted the initial survey of Kehje Sewen forest to ensure its suitability for orangutans. Azwar opened the cage at 01.52 pm.  When Azwar opened the padlock, Diah sat impatiently waiting and sometimes shook her cage. Once the cage was opened, this lovely female orangutan directly made her way out and climbed a towering tree.

Azwar opened Diah’s cage.

Diah stopped climbing for a moment to look down at the team, but after a moment continued climbing up higher and higher. Up in the tree, Diah busied herself enjoying young leaves of Croton argyratus.

Diah after being released.


Welcomed by the Fruity Season in Kehje Sewen

Finally, they are now back to their home province, East Kalimantan.  Yayang has been living in Central Kalimantan for nine years and Diah for 13 years. The Monitoring Team will closely observe them and make sure that they adapt well to their new environment in the Kehje Sewen forest, after years of living in Central Kalimantan.

It is currently fruiting season in Kehje Sewen and there are an abundance of LianaGeunsia pentandraArtocarpus spPalaqiumKoordersiodendron pinnatum fruit available, plus many more (AdinandraMacaranga,  Geunsia pentandraAglaiaLitseaCroton argyratusCalamusEpiphyteFicus).  Yayang-Sayang and Diah should have no trouble finding food.

19. Buah Pakan OU

Liana Fruit

The three orangutans are enjoying their new home to the fullest and were observed happily consuming the variety of fruits available.  Once settled, we let them enjoy the dense Kehje Sewen forest while we returned to the camp full of emotion and hope for their future. Welcome home, Yayang, Sayang and Diah and enjoy the delightful fruiting season.

20. YSD Menikmati Rumah Barunya

The three orangutans are enjoying their new home

Masino: Orangutan Keeper and Samboja Lestari HLO

Yayang, Sayang and Diah’s release event is the first cross-province release conducted by the BOS Foundation.  On this occasion, Masino, from Samboja Lestari also had a first time experience!  He was appointed and trained as one of our Helicopter Landing Officer’s. With his clear direction, the helicopter and orangutan cages landed perfectly on Camp 103’s helipad.  Having completed his first task in this new role, Masino then joined the RHOI team in taking Yayang, Sayang and Diah’s cages to their release site.

Masino admitted that he was a little nervous in his new role as a HLO – it is a huge responsibility. It was a big moment for the BOS Foundation to safely transport orangutans from Central Kalimantan to their true home in East Kalimantan for the very first time, and the final part of this task was Masino’s responsibility; to safely direct the helicopter so that Yayang, Sayang and Diah would land safely.

21. Masino


Although he didn’t know Yayang, Sayang and Diah before, Masino said that he was moved when he witnessed the orangutans climb out from their cages and into the towering trees above. “I am so happy to see them finally back in their rightful home in East Kalimantan. Moreover, Diah who was once living in Samboja Lestari and moved to Nyaru Menteng for 13 years is now back!”

Masino hopes that all of the 5 orangutans (who he knows very well) that we returned from Samboja Lestari to Central Kalimantan, especially Cici who is very active, can adapt well in their natural habitat and be released back to the real Central Kalimantan forest as soon as possible.

Congratulation and a big thank to Masino who has done his job very well! Keep the spirit burning!


Orangutan release activities – especially cross-province activities – are very costly. Help us send more orangutans home by donating at


Text by: Paulina L. Ela (BOSF Communications Specialist) & Monica Devi Krisnasari (BOSF Adoption Program Coordinator).

Photos by: Indrayana, Media Romadona, Monica Devi Krisnasari, Awal and Suwardi.


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