Today, 19 April 2014, four orangutans finally departed from Nyaru Menteng and started their journey to Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest. These four orangutans are Slamet, Kacio, Olympia, and Miss Owen.
Their Journey Home Begins!
It was still dark when the Release Team started their activities today. At 4.30 am, the Medical Team and Technicians arrived at the Quarantine Enclosure – Midway 3. The Medical Team, coordinated by Vet Arga Sawung Kusuma was ready to sedate the orangutans. Vet Meryl Yemima Gerhanauli was also there to help with the preparation along with Vet Agnes Pratamiutami, who is a veterinarian from the Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Samboja Lestari.
Then Vet Arga conducted a short briefing, followed by a praying session so that the activity today could go as planned. At 5.07 am, the team started to sedate the release candidates. Slamet was the first, sedated by Technician Mulyono. It took a while for the active, dominant male to fall asleep, so the vets decided to increase his dose. While waiting for Slamet to fall asleep, Technician Mulyono sedated Miss Owen and Kacio. Unlike Slamet and Miss Owen, who were sedated using a blowpipe, Kacio was sedated by injection.
Both Miss Owen and Kacio quickly fell asleep and moved to their travel cages. Not long after, Slamet finally fell asleep. The handsome orangutan with cheekpads was also transferred into his travel cage. Olympia, however did not need to be sedated. She simply walked with Technician Mulyono and Vet Arga to her travel cage! By 6 am, all four orangutans were loaded onto the truck and the Release Team departed to Tjilik Riwut Airport in Palangka Raya.
Waiting for ‘Green Light’ from the Sky
Rain poured in Muara Teweh since dawn. It was still raining when the Nyaru Menteng Team reported their arrival at Tjilik Riwut Airport at 6.55 am, forcing the team to postpone the loading-unloading process. The Release Team in Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest also reported dark clouds, which turned into heavy rain a little while later. Nevertheless, the Team in Batikap was on standby at drop point Monnu, ready to welcome the orangutans.
At Tjilik Riwut Airport, the Team waited for the news from Muara Teweh and Batikap. We kept our spirits high and prayed for the weather to improve. At 10.30 am, we finally received a ‘green light’ from the sky. We could fly! The team was excited and started to unload the travel cages from the truck and loaded them onto the Twin Otter airplane.
Olympia was the first to be loaded, followed by Kacio, Miss Owen, and last but not least, Slamet. The entire process today was also witnessed by the Third Assistant of the City Government of Palangka Raya, Herie Wicaksono. And by noon, the Twin Otter finally took off, heading to Muara Teweh.
Going Back to the Forest!
45 minutes later, the Twin Otter landed safely at Beringin Airport, Muara Teweh. Travel cages were immediately unloaded from the plane and moved onto the slingload. Then the Load Master, assisted by the Release Team in Muara Teweh, secured the slingload. After Vet Meryl conducted a final check, the orangutans were ready to embark on their final journey home!
At 1.30 pm, the helicopter departed, bringing our beloved orangutans back to the forest. Twin Otter then returned to Palangka Raya to prepare tomorrow’s activities. Today, two groups of orangutans were scheduled to return to the forest. But because of the weather, we had to postpone the departure of the second group until tomorrow. It was a challenging day. We are hoping for a much better tomorrow. And we are also waiting for news from the forest about the releases of these four orangutans. Stay tuned!
Orangutan release activities are very costly. Help us send more orangutans home by donating at http://donation.orangutan.or.id.
Text by: Paulina L. Ela and Monica Devi Krisnasari