Another 20 orangutans rediscover freedom

Orangutan Protection Foundation: February 2013

L-R: Mexa, Rachmad and Danur. 3 of 20 Orangutans now adjusting to life back in the trees.

Freedom… It is one of our most fundamental and precious privileges. Yet is something we so much take for granted.

Imagine being imprisoned through no fault of your own, finding yourself behind the bars of a cage not but because of anything you did wrong. This is the reality that many Orangutans in Indonesia are faced with every day.

But there is hope and it is found in the inspirational work of the past 2 years undertaken by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

The roll call of Orangutan lives rescued and rehabilitated since BOS Foundation was founded in 1991 is impressive to say the least – Kesi, Grendon, Lomon, Ruthie, Nody and Hercules are amongst the more well known names but many hundreds have found sanctuary in the Nyaru Menteng and Samboja Lestari centres – adults rescued from the threat of injury or death, and infants who have been kept as pets, having lost their own mothers.

For many years, these Orangutans have had to remain in enclosures for their own protection. There was no safe forest into which they could be released.

But BOS Foundation has begun the challenging and inspirational work to get these Orangutans out of cages and back to the trees. Since heading up the organisation 2 years ago, Dr Jamartin Sihite, (pictured left) the driving force behind the ongoing efforts to get these orangutans home and doing the best he can to keep them safe, has orchestrated the release of 64 Orangutans who are presently rediscovering life in the canopy. But there is still a long way to go to deliver the promise of freedom to more than 800 Orangutans still in the care of BOS Foundation. With each release costing more than £5,000 this is an expensive undertaking but massively rewarding for all involved, from donor, to team member, to orangutan!

Of his own experience Dr Jamartin says, “My dream is only how to best use my time and energy to save the orangutan, to make sure they are living in their home. It is a great challenge and will be for the coming years, but a strong team means we can do our very best for them. Like me, they understand that they work for the orangutan. BOS Foundation and RHOI are our tools to make sure orangutan will survive but BOSF cannot do this alone. We have to work hand in hand with many others and make sure everyone shares the same vision for the future of the orangutan.”

Jamartin, pictured in his second home, the forest...

Most recently, on Valentine’s Day, 20 Orangutans – including mothers and babies – made the journey from Nyaru Menteng to the Bukit Batikap Forest. Amongst them, Mexa (top left photo) rescued from an oil palm plantation at 15 years old, having spent an unknown period with a chain around her neck; Rachmad (centre top photo) now 9 years old rescued in 2006; and Danur (right top photo). He has lived at Nyaru Menteng for 13 years, rescued from the pet trade at 4 years old… It is the same story for so many, but today, we can be inspired by happy endings and new beginnings. Dagoy (pictured below with her 3 year old daughter Debby) also at the centre since 2000, will be joining her son Terusan – an example of a generation of orangutan family saved because of the existence of BOS Foundation. All are being monitored by an expert team and are adjusting well to this new and exciting life in Bukit Batikap Forest.

“I think of myself as both a practical and a spiritual person”, says Jamartin, “and to see the difference in these orangutans when they were in their cages to now being in the trees is a wonderful and emotional experience. Their time has finally come and freedom is the greatest gift we can give them.”

Orangutans in the mist - Dagoy, with Debbie clutched cosily beneath, gives a parting glance to the release team.