It has been almost nine months since the BOS Foundation closed its rehabilitation centres to visitors, volunteers, and researchers to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Throughout this uncertain time, we have remained fully committed to providing high-quality care for the orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng and Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Centres.
Our staff members at both centres have adhered to stringent health protocols and worked on an adjusted schedule, which includes being assigned to restricted work areas with alternating staff rotations. Similarly, strict protocols have also been applied to our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) teams that work deep in our three release forests in Central and East Kalimantan.
In addition to these COVID-19 prevention measures, the BOS Foundation has also conducted rapid testing for all employees in our rehabilitation centres. The tests were made available thanks to assistance from the Indonesian government, in collaboration with local health clinics. Every employee, both in Central and East Kalimantan, has undergone several rapid tests over the past months.
Thanks to these protocols, all staff members and orangutans have remained in good health and kept safe from COVID-19 transmission.
We have also strived to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our project villages. Our community empowerment team has distributed sanitation equipment and provided educational materials for villages so that residents in and around our working areas can also stay healthy.
To keep the orangutans, both inside and outside our centres safe, in March the BOS Foundation temporarily suspended all release and rescue activities. We knew, however, that it was only a matter of time before there would be an orangutan in desperate need of our help. Therefore, we made ready emergency rescue protocols and a special COVID-19 quarantine area so that if the situation required us to take in a new orangutan, we could ensure they would not put our resident orangutans or staff at risk.
It was about five weeks after the lockdown of our centres that we got the first call from the Indonesian Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) requesting our help to rescue an orangutan from a human settlement. We immediately dispatched a special team in full HAZMAT suits. The team worked neatly and efficiently, which paid off with the safe rescue of the orangutan and no COVID-19 infections for the involved staff. Over the year, we have rescued a total of 12 orangutans, and since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Indonesia, we have cautiously welcomed two orangutans to our Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
The first was a female we named Jeni, who was in desperate need of veterinary attention, and the second was infant boy Alexander. He needed a surrogate mother to raise him in the absence of his own. Despite not coming from captivity in a human home, both still underwent special COVID-19 quarantine at the centre before being integrated with the rest of our orangutan population.
However, these necessary adjustments to our procedures have had a negative impact on other work areas, including our fundraising efforts. Applying these restrictions on activities and imposing stricter protocols means we have not been able to carry out our regular face-to-face fundraising, which, in normal circumstances, we would do at a number of public events. Nor have we been able to make school visits to deliver our education program.
Now, everything must be done virtually, online. We have launched direct online campaigns more frequently than ever before, and we have made additional efforts to provide online education – because orangutan and habitat conservation doesn’t just stop when the rest of the world slows down.
Despite the challenges, a solution has never been out of reach. We know that our collaborative efforts are our strength. Being healthy and strong together means we can keep working to conserve orangutans and their habitat.
If you like to support our work and help Jeni and Alexander and all the other orangutans in our care, please follow the link here. We can’t thank you enough for every little donation you are able to make. Please also check out our video, featuring Jeni and Alexander’s first few months at our rehabilitation centre.