Five orangutans have now returned to living in their natural habitat in an East Kalimantan forest after spending up to six years in rehabilitation.
“The five orangutans have been successfully released back into the forest on Saturday morning,” Paulina Laurensia, a spokeswoman for a conservation and rescue agency for the endangered species, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS Foundation) told The Parrot.
The three males and two females, named Angely, Gadis, Kenji, Hope and Raymond, were transported overland from Samboja Lestari rehabilitation center near Balikpapan to Kehje Sewen forest in East Kutai and Kutai Kertanegara regencies.
Kehje Wehen means ‘orangutan’ in the dialect of Dayak Wehea, the indigenous tribe who live in the East Kalimantan forest.
According to BOS Foundation, Kehje Sewen is a 86,450-hectare rainforest that managed as an ecosystem restoration concession. The foundation bought the forest in 2010 so they can have a place to release rehabilitated orangutans back into their natural habitat.
The rehabilitation center team and the orangutans departed Friday from Samboja and traveled for about 12 hours to Muara Wahau, a sub-district in East Kalimantan with regular stops in every two hours to check on the big apes’ conditions. They then took another five-hour trip to the edge of the forest and continued the journey by boat across the river to reach the release points in the forest.
Agus Irwanto, a veterinarian at the Samboja Lestari said in a press release that they hope the released orangutans could generate a new wild population, as they joined the other 40 previously released orangutans in the forest that were released between 2012 – 2015.
The rehabilitation program was in doubt last year when more than 150 hectares of forest surrounding Samboja Lestari was destroyed by fire as they would not be able to find a place that can accommodate the center’s 200 orangutans, should they need to be evacuated, said Jamartin Sihite, CEO of the BOS Foundation.
“We need participation from everyone to make sure this will not happen again. The East Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) and other authorities have been generously supporting our efforts, nevertheless we still need much firmer law enforcement to help protect orangutans and their habitat in East Kalimantan,” Jamartin said.