Story of little Tundai

BOS Foundation: 5 August 2014

The sad reality of each young orangutan who enters our rehabilitation centers is that they come from having lived through a bitter past; usually having been separated from their mother at a very young age and little Tundai is no different.

Tundai’s background In June 2014, a two year old female orangutan was handed over to Nyaru Menteng where she was named Tundai, after Lake Tundai where she was confiscated from. For six months Tundai had been kept as a pet by Aminurahman of Lake Tundai village who admitted to the fact that he was aware that the orangutan was a protected animal and thus was fearful of the consequences of keeping one as a pet. He however claimed that he had found Tundai walking alone without her mother and had taken her home out of pity rather than with the intent to keep her as a pet. His eight year old son Udin had a slightly different version to this story. According to Udin, Tundai and her mother were cornered by the villagers while they were foraging together. While the mother managed to escape to the forest Tundai was captured by the villagers and ended up as Aminurahman’s pet.

During her life in Aminurahman’s house, Tundai was kept caged in a narrow wooden enclosure, never allowed out and was fed a diet of mostly rice and some fruit.

While the truth about how Tundai became separated from her mother might never be fully revealed, the sad reality is that she is now an orphan and needs our support to help regain and develop her natural abilities and behavior.

Life at Nyaru Menteng

Tundai was one very upset orangutan when the team from Nyaru Menteng went to pick her up from the village. The sight of all the people who had gathered around to watch her rescue scared her tremendously and at the point she was actually taken out of her cage she protested loudly. Her fearful reactions only point to the fact that the separation from her mother at the hands of humans must have been an extremely traumatizing experience for her. On the motor boat accompanied by vet Meryl Yemima, she kept glancing at the forest on both sides of the river almost as if seeing them for the first time or maybe even looking for an escape option.

Currently Tundai is being taken care of by the babysitters in the Nursery Group while she undergoes the quarantine phase following which she will join other young orphaned orangutans in the Forest School. Fortunately, Tundai still has a liking for natural forest foods and also retains her wild behavior. She eats rattan shoots, climbs high enough to reach the roof of the Baby House and kiss squeaks to show her dislike towards humans.

Despite these positive signs Tundai still needs to go through the complete rehabilitation process as she is still too young to be able to survive in the wild on her own.

The Need to Protect Orangutan Natural Habitat

Stories of young orphans like Tundai are not uncommon in Kalimantan. The place where she was rescued from; Lake Tundai village is not too far from Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan Province and is inhabited by at least 56 families, who mostly make their living as fishermen. A survey on orangutan distribution by the BOS Foundation, also confirmed this location is inhabited by orangutans.

With increasing damage to forests in this area, the orangutans are losing their natural habitat and are forced to roam into human farms to forage which leads to conflict between the two. And it is not only orangutan’s who are in conflict with the humans here; other wildlife is also being affected by this situation. Just two months ago there was a case of a sun bear who entered the human settlement and damaged homes. There have also been instances of crocodiles preying on the residents’ animals.

These cases result from loss of natural habitat, which forces wild species and humans into close contact and conflict situations. The situation does not seem to be slowing and on the way back to Nyaru Menteng, the team passed several boats pulling logs in to the river.

During Tundai’s confiscation, staff from Central Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources tried their best to educate and inform the villagers about the Regulations on Wildlife Protection hoping to avoid more sad cases like Tundai in the future. However, unless natural habitat is protected from further encroachment, orangutans will continue to end up in conflict with humans and their very existence will remain shadowed by extinction.

Text by: Hermansyah and Monterado Fridman, Staff Divisi Komunikasi & Pendidikan PROKT- NM Photos by: Hermansyah, Staff Divisi Komunikasi & Pendidikan PROKT- NM

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