Do you enjoy watching our rescued orangutans playing and learning in Forest School and eventually returning to their true home in the Bornean rainforest? Unfortunately, the orangutan rehabilitation process does not always produce the desired results, especially for those orangutans afflicted with old age, lacking natural behaviours, having physical disabilities, or suffering from infectious diseases that prevent them from being released to the forest.
There are dozens of orangutans like this under the care of our team at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. Here are the stories of two individuals, Alfa and Kirun.
Alfa arrived at Nyaru Menteng on December 17, 1999, when he was four years old. Kirun, a male one year younger than Alfa, arrived on the same day.
At the time, the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre had just been established, and Alfa and Kirun were some of the first students of Nyaru Menteng’s Forest School. During his time at Forest School, Alfa rarely showed the desire to climb trees and stay high up in the canopy. He also moved around very slowly and took a long time to eat his share of fruit. These behaviours seem to be a well-established habit, as they continue today.
Kirun stayed in Forest School until 2001 and was known as a dominant orangutan who was easily attracted to new people. This behaviour resulted from the long time he spent in captivity with humans before being rescued. Kirun would approach and playfully bite the person’s boots whenever he saw a new face.
However, despite years of rehabilitation in the centre, Kirun failed to develop sufficient skills to survive in the wild, as he opted to spend too much time on the forest floor. Just like Alfa, Kirun rarely climbed up into the trees.
Alfa and Kirun now both suffer from Orangutan Respiratory Disease Syndrome (ORDS), a chronic respiratory illness that requires them to be under human care for the rest of their lives. This disease automatically designates Alfa and Kirun as ‘unreleasable’ orangutans who we cannot return to a natural, wild habitat.
Although Alfa and Kirun will spend the rest of their lives in a special care complex, they are steadfastly looked after and dearly loved by the members of our veterinary, enrichment, and technician teams.
Kirun is always very friendly toward the technicians who deliver food twice daily to his complex. And he has formed a close bond with Hanni, who is currently a member of the enrichment team. Hanni was Kirun’s surrogate mother when he first entered Forest School, and, even all these years later, he still seeks Hanni’s attention whenever she visits his complex – something she is more than happy to provide.
If you would like to support our unreleasable orangutans, you can help here.