We have exciting news to share. We will transfer three orangutans to a forested, sanctuary island located in the Salat Island cluster in Central Kalimantan. This is the first attempt to release orangutans since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year. The transfer will be carried out under special, strict protocols to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus to humans and orangutans.
Badak Kecil Sanctuary Island is utilised to accommodate healthy ‘unreleasable’ orangutans. The new arrivals will increase the island’s population to 10 individuals.
The three lucky ones are Dilla, Mawas and Jeliva. The females are between 13 and 17 years old and spent years undergoing the rehabilitation process at our Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Unfortunately, they couldn’t develop the natural skills and behaviours needed to survive independently in the wild. However, their good health allows them to live on a sanctuary island with an environment similar to that of a natural forest.
For those of you who have watched Season 2 of ‘Orangutans Jungle School’ on Stan: Yes, you guessed right. Dilla is the young orangutan mum, who was reunited with her previously rejected daughter Delilah. Sadly, despite our best efforts, the bond never truly formed. For the safety of young Delilah, our animal care team had no choice but to make the hard decision to put Delilah under the care of BOS Foundation surrogate mothers. We speculate that due to her own traumatic, motherless past, Dilla was simply not ready to be a mother to her child.
With Delilah under the care of surrogate mothers, we could fully focus on Dilla’s rehabilitation. After a time in the socialisation complex, we moved her to a pre-release island to hone her skills, but again, things did not go as planned.
On the island, Dilla shined as an active orangutan and excellent climber, but sadly she did not appear to be learning new skills or even using her old ones, and we had to remove her from the pre-release island. After a long period of assessment and deliberation, we decided that Dilla was more suited for life on a sanctuary island where there is less competition with other orangutans. Also, the technicians can provide her with even greater support to make up for her lacking skillset. Now, the wait is over, and Dilla is ready to move again!
The Nyaru Menteng team is mindful that this transfer effort will be conducted in the midst of a pandemic, making it a different mission than usual. The risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus to both staff and orangutans is always lurking. For this reason, the BOS Foundation has introduced special protocols for all activities involved in the movement of orangutans outside of the rehabilitation centre. These protocols also include the testing of orangutan candidates for COVID-19 while in pre-transfer quarantine.
“Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year, we have had to cancel all release and transfer activities’, BOS Foundation CEO Jamartin Sihite explains. “We have studied conditions and worked hard to improve our protocols to guarantee the safety of our staff members and animals, both in our rehabilitation centres and in the release forests. Now, we have prepared ourselves to work under new protocols to ensure a smooth transfer process. To this end, we also conduct regular health tests on our staff, so that our team members and the orangutans we move outside of the rehabilitation centre are safe from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and other diseases.”
We are confident that Dilla, Mawas and Jeliva will thrive in their new island home. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, they will still develop skills over the years so that they can eventually return to their true home in the forest.