With the 15th orangutan release in the Kehje Sewen Forest on the horizon, our post-release monitoring (PRM) team in Nles Mamse Camp had many extra tasks to complete. As usual, the team needed to find a suitable location in which to open the cages, and also had to organise the types of transportation required to reach the exact location. With the team in full swing, preparations had already begun several weeks prior to the release date.
The 15th orangutan release took place in the southern part of the Kehje Sewen Forest, in an area we refer to as ‘Mugi’s ex-nursery’. This area is located about four kilometres from camp and can only be reached by boat. This meant the team needed to prepare our boat, which was significantly damaged in a flood last December. Although the boat had been repaired shortly after the flood, we still needed to ensure that it was in tip-top condition: structurally sturdy, with a well-oiled engine, and outfitted with safety equipment. The boat had to be reliable and perform well to transport the orangutans and whole release team safely to the release location.
The PRM team members got to work very early on preparing the boat; they diligently combed the entire body, fixed the cracks, made new oars, and finished it with a new coat of paint. Three full days were dedicated to completely reconditioning the boat and fitting it with floating devices and other safety equipment, before it was ready for action.
Determining Release Locations for Kehje Sewen’s New Residents
The team also had to determine which location would be most suitable, as release locations can heavily influence how a released orangutan adapts to their new home. These orangutans will eventually move off to explore deeper into the forest once they have settled in, but the release site is the cradle of their second chance at life in the wild. For us, the process is like establishing a new family home, then handing it over to your loved ones.
Choosing a release location has its own complexities. We need to find an area full of tall trees and with lots of fruiting trees in the vicinity, this ensures food availability and the ability to travel in the trees as much as possible for our released orangutans. The location also needs to be relatively ‘uninhabited’ by orangutans previously released to the Kehje Sewen Forest, have enough space to accommodate the number of cages involved in the release event, and be accessible by the entire team. In order to determine such a location, our team had to conduct a survey. It took three weeks before we finalised the location in which to release Arnold, Seto, Tinatun, Derek, Totti, and Sakura.
Today, all six orangutans are now roaming happy and free in their new home, the Kehje Sewen Forest. We will continue to monitor them over the next few weeks to ensure they are adapting well to this new, beautiful environment.
Text by: PRM team in Nles Mamse Camp, Kehje Sewen Forest