Challenges of orangutan release

ico Hermanu: BOS Foundation: 26 March 2015

In 2007, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, launched a national program called “Orangutan Indonesia: Conservation Strategies and Action Plan”. This program was designed by orangutan experts and outlined a series of actions and strategies needed to protect orangutans in Sumatra and Kalimantan over a 10 year period, circa 2010 to 2017. The strategy anticipated that by 2015, all orangutans cared for within rehabilitation centers in Sumatra and Kalimantan would have been reintroduced.

We are now in 2015 and hundreds of orangutans are still under the rehabilitation process. Within the BOS Foundation alone, we are currently caring for more than 700 orangutans within Nyaru Menteng in Central Kalimantan and Samboja Lestari in East Kalimantan. The national strategy presents a tough deadline for us to work towards.

BOS Foundation was founded in 1991, and during the last 3 years we have released 167 orangutans into safe natural habitat. In Central Kalimantan we have focused our orangutan reintroductions in the Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest and in East Kalimantan within the Kehje Sewen forest. This is a positive situation, nevertheless we are facing several problems yet to be solved.

Looking for an ideal forest into which we can release orangutans into is no simple matter either. The forest areas need to fulfill several criteria such as altitude, food availability, be secured from plans of exploration and exploitation, have a minimum or zero wild orangutan population and be a distance from human populations. Once one has located such an area, the BOS Foundation is not automatically able to release orangutans.

Acquiring a permit or license of use of the area mentioned above is the next challenge to tackle. A Forest Concession (HPH) is reqired before an organisation can use a forest area for a certain purpose. In response to this the BOS Foundation founded a special company, PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), to manage a 86,450 hectare forest called Kehje Sewen in Kutai Regency, East Kalimantan. This area is expected to sustain at least half of our population of rehabilitated orangutans from Samboja Lestari. In Central Kalimantan, the BOS Foundation is initially utilizing the Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest in Murung Raya Regency, which is estimated to be able to accommodate over 300 individual orangutans.

In Central Kalimantan, the BOS Foundation is initially utilizing the Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest in Murung Raya Regency, which is estimated to be able to accommodate over 300 individual orangutans.

Another issue no less important is orangutan preparedness. Prior to release, each candidate needs to possess certain survival skills such as being able to climb and travel through the trees, being able to identify natural forest foods like bark, termites, leaves or fruits, able to sufficiently build nests and overall display general natural behaviors. Being dependant on humans would put their lives in danger and at the forefront of potential human-orangutan conflict situations.

Not all rehabilitated orangutans are releasable. Some individuals do have transferrable infectious diseases which they have contracted from humans after their illegal capture. Some are also disabled, or unable to learn the wild skills needs due to being held in long-time captivity. These conditions would leave them unable to survive the wild. However, the BOS Foundation has been working diligently to find a forest area which is protected for these individuals to be able to live safely for the rest of their lives.



We at BOS Foundation are working towards plans so that each and every orangutan currently under our care, can one day live a life in as natural a situation as possible. We have planned several solutions and scenarios to achieve this. So asides from finding forest areas for safe, successful orangutan release– whether in a conservation forest achieved through cooperation with the government, or in a concession forest area through an ecosystem restoration concession –the BOS Foundation has been continuously searching to find a place for the unreleasable orangutans so they can live freely in a sanctuary-like area, that we can still monitor and react to their needs. This search has led us to a cooperation with the community and government of Pulang Pisau Regency to acquire a forest area in the delta of Kahayan River, Central Kalimantan.