It was early in the morning when our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team at Camp Lesik, in the Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan, set out to capture Bong.
The female orangutan, whom we released five years ago, needed to be translocated after making frequent visits to the camp, stealing equipment, and causing damage to one of our vehicles.
Moving an orangutan from one forest area to another involves sedating and carefully placing them in a transport crate. As we went through sedating Bong and putting her in a crate, a male orangutan watched on nearby.
Hamzah, who was released into the forest nine years ago, was one of the first rehabilitated orangutans to inhabit the Kehje Sewen Forest. He had formed a close relationship with Bong, and we saw the two together on several occasions. The day following, Hamzah even approached the transport crate Bong had been placed in, not far from our camp.
Despite the heart-breaking sight of Hamzah, we decided to move Bong to an area called Muara So. This area was a few kilometres east of the camp and would be a safer home for her, reducing the potential for conflict with the PRM team.
A few months later, our team members were busy conducting a patrol in Muara So, Bong’s new home area. While they were not searching for her specifically, an orangutan they spotted brachiating across the river ended up being Bong.
She was engrossed in eating cambium and appeared to be in sound health, proving that she was thriving in her new location. Unfortunately, she was on the other side of the river, in an area that is difficult for the team to access regularly due to strong currents. Since the team was patrolling on foot that day instead of by boat, they had to accept that they could not conduct a thorough observation on Bong.
Hamzah, meanwhile, ventured off into the forest in search of another female orangutan further away from our camp.
To be continued…