19 November 2013

International Animal Rescue: Arrival of new rescue Rika

by volunteer Lisa Burtenshaw

At the end of October the team was called out to the village of Tumbang Titi, a four hour drive from Ketapang, to rescue a young orangutan called Rika, who was being kept as a pet.

This orangutan was chained to the house of her ownerRika is about three years old and her owners said they had been keeping her for the last three months, but we suspect she has been a pet for much longer as she is very habituated to people. Her last owner had paid about $50 for her and implied that he would like money for handing her over to us. But we will never pay for an orangutan because it only encourages the trade in them. 

Although Rika was kept in a small cage, she also spent time chained by the neck under the house, along with a dog and a pig. She was sometimes let off her chain and would go and make a nest, but would always return for food. She has some wounds on her neck from the chain and a skin infection but both are now being treated by our medical staff and are healing well. 
Rika is now in quarantine at the orangutan rescue centre

Rika’s hair is in poor condition as a result of a diet of vegetables and rice, but this will improve now she is being fed more suitable and nutritious food.

Rika is now in quarantine and has had a few health tests for which we are awaiting results. She has a very sweet personality and vocalises for attention.

4 November 2013

International Animal Rescue: October Orangutan Update

Rescued orangutan Santi is doing well post rescueThe beginning of October bought us new arrival Santi. She is about three years old and has had a chain of different owners; we think she originally came from the area of Singkup. She was surrendered to BKSDA (forestry department), who handed her over to us. We know very little about her background, but at her last placement she had been fed cake and bread and been kept in a cage. Santi looks to be in reasonable condition, with a coat of long, healthy hair but is currently in quarantine where she is waiting for test results to come back before we move her into one of the other groups.

Lots of the orangutans have been moved about this month. Cinta was the first to go into one of the new large socialisation cages. She can be quite destructive, but she is also easier to handle than a lot of the older girls, which makes her a good test case to see if the cages can stand up to the other strong and dextrous orangutans!

All our orangutans from the old transit site have now been moved to the new Sungai Awan site. It requires a lot of planning and co-ordinating to move the older orangutans. First they are sedated and while they are out the medical team do lots of health checks and test on them. They are weighed and measured, have hair and blood samples taken so that their general health can be tested for liver and kidney function and blood count. TB test are done by taking x-rays, a skin test, blood test and tracheal wash. Their teeth are also checked and photographed. A good way to tell the age of an orangutan is by their teeth. They are then put into transportation cages to come round from the anaesthesia, put onto a truck and driven to Sungai Awan, which is about thirty minutes drive out of Ketapang town. They watch with curiosity and interest at the world going by. Both Neng and Suki were immediately put into one of the new socialisation cages, which they both climbed to the top off and surveyed their new surroundings.

The old cages from transit centre are also being moved to the new site, where they are being repaired, repainted and refitted with new enrichment, thanks to the great work of The Orangutan Project volunteers, who have been working tirelessly to get the concrete bases and cages ready while competing with the tropical heat and monsoon storms now the rainy season has arrived.

Nicky, Huta, Mona and Mely have now all been reunited and are also now in one of the other large socialisation cages. Nicky was moved to the new centre a while ago when she was ill and she had been alone in the quarantine building while being treated and making a full recovery. She is such a friendly and playful orangutan that this was a joy to see her reunited with her old friends. They greeted each other with big hugs and now have fun chasing each other around and playing together.     
Pelangi is learning the ropesNow Pelangi has finished quarantine, she is being slowly introduced to the other members in baby school. Noel and Gunung took a lot of interest in her, manhandling her a lot, though she gave as good as she got! Marie is doing brilliantly, she loves exploring and climbing high in the trees, she often does this on her own, but likes to spend time with Gembar, who is also another great climber. As Marie is so small she still receives supplementary food from her carers. Onyo is now becoming more independent of the baby sitters. 

Kiki is doing well after being treated for a large load of intestinal parasites after living in a tiny cage full of excrement. We are awaiting results from his first quarantine exam, but he is still calm and gentle.

Ael, whose tragic story you can read here has now finished her quarantine. She is very nervous of humans and has the behaviour of a wild orangutan, She vocalises and shakes things to show her displeasure when she sees humans. We have introduced her to Sukma, another wild, but young female and we hope that Sukma will learn more from Ael to keep her wild behaviours. They are getting on well, sharing food and Ael reminds Sukma to be wary around humans. We plan to release them together when a suitable release site is found. 

You can help support the work of International Animal Rescue by purchasing the 2014 calendar here. 100% profit from the sales goes to IAR.

22 October 2013

International Animal Rescue: Update on Rescues, Translocations and New Arrivals!

By volunteer Lisa Burtenshaw

As ever, it’s been a busy couple of months for the team at the centre in Ketapang, with rescues, translocations and new arrivals.

Baby orangutan Pelangi was rescued from a birdcageIn mid-September we received Pelangi, a two year old female orangutan. Pelangi (Indonesian for 'rainbow') had been kept as a pet for about one year, in an area close to Ketapang, in Indonesian Borneo. Originally her owners purchased her for $50 USD after taking pity on her. She was kept in a birdcage and dressed in baby clothes, was given baths and fed on a diet of fruit and powdered milk.  

As you can see, she's proving to be a real natural at climbing!Pelangi has a fun personality, and is still in quarantine awaiting another round of tests.  In the meantime, she is eating fruits and vegetables very well, and enjoying her daily playtime in the tree.  She is getting braver and exploring and climbing higher each time.  She is adjusting well to her new situation although she still finds comfort in clinging to her teddy bear surrogate mother from time to time.  She will be introduced to baby school when her quarantine is done.

The team also rescued Kiki, an older male orangutan, who had been kept as a pet for many years. Kiki’s rescue story can be read here.

Ael is a wild female orangutan, captured and taunted by villagersAel is a wild orangutan who was rescued from a village after the villagers caught her. Ael’s rescue story can be read here.

Marie and her new buddy OnyoMarie passed quarantine and after a few play sessions with Onyo, she has now joined all the others in baby school, where she spends every day in the forest, climbing high in the trees looking for the fruit and vegetables that we hang to encourage the foraging skills of all the orangutans.

Although she has grown a lot, she is still the smallest member in baby school and needs some extra help and supplemental feeding from the babysitters. She spends her nights inside the baby school building, under the care of the night shift staff.

We also had a visit from The Orangutan Projects ambassadors Zoe Foster and Hamish Blake, who filmed for the Australian programme “A Current Affair” and are raising funds and awareness by encouraging donations to their special appeal for the rehabilitation of Rocky and Rickina. 

Building work is still going on at the Sungai Awan centre, with the large socialisation cages near completion we hope to move our final six adult orangutans from the old transit site very soon….

18 October 2013

International Animal Rescue: The rescue of Kiki

by vet Syifa Sidik

At the end of September our colleagues at The Centre for Orangutan Protection informed us of an orangutan living in frightful conditions in Kubu Raya Regency in West Kalimantan, some 150 kilometres from Ketapang. Knowing that this would be no easy task, on 5th October, in conjunction with the local BKSDA, our rescue team set off on the lengthy journey to Kubu Raya. One plane ride, car ride and some gruelling hours later, our team arrived at the house of Mr Hermansah, the owner of an adult male orangutan called Kiki. 
Chief vet Karmele meets Kiki the orangutan

Mr Hermansah is a retired soldier who was previously stationed near the border between West and Central Kalimantan. Even though he claimed to know and understand the regulations and prohibition on the purchase and keeping of orangutans, he did it anyway and, according to him, he had owned Kiki for 13 years! As he grew bigger and stronger Kiki became too much to handle and Mr Hermansah decided to to surrender him, but only to someone competent in the field of wildlife husbandry and particularly orangutans. Mr Hermansah claimed he had tried for several years to surrender Kiki to government officials in West Kalimantan and also contacted several NGOs and other organisations but to no avail. As he had no success finding a suitable place for Kiki, the orangutan entered adulthood living in a small cramped captive environment and not in the vast lush jungle of West Kalimantan. After examining him, our vet estimated Kiki’s age at between 8 and 10 years old. He is, however, incredibly small for his size owing to malnourishment and his cramped living conditions.
Kiki's sad expression says it all

Kiki has spent years housed in a small, rusty, steel cage with no door. His cage was placed directly on the dirty ground and was surrounded by mountains of excrement. His diet consisted of the usual food items that we have found orangutan owners feed their pets: rice, fried rice, coffee, snacks, fruits and vegetables, to name but a few. Kiki was also occasionally permitted out of his cage to play around Mr Hermansah’s house and to play with the neighbours. 

Kiki has a very calm temperament. During the 12 hour boat ride back to our rehabilitation centre in Sei Awan, near Ketapang, he was a model passenger, never displaying a bad temper and doing what the vet asked of him. He is safe now and settling in nicely at our quarantine facilities. 
The orangutan rescue team plan their rescue strategy

We’ll be bringing you more on Kiki when his time in quarantine is up and he’s ready to be introduced to some of the other orangutans at the centre.

4 October 2013

International Animal Rescue: We mark World Animal Day with a celebration of our Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation Project

To mark World Animal Day this year, we’re celebrating the wonderful work of our team in West Borneo rescuing orangutans and preparing them for release back into the wild. And we’re using baby orangutan Rickina to illustrate it.

Spanish volunteer Alejo Sabugo filmed a delightful short video of Rickina at our orangutan rescue centre in Borneo. She has a machete wound on her head which she probably sustained while clinging to her mother when she was attacked and killed. Thankfully little Rickina survived and her wound has now healed. 

The film shows how vulnerable baby orangutans are during the first months of their lives. These tiny babies would normally spend their days in the forest clinging tightly to their mothers, relying on them for food and protection. And so when orphaned babies first arrive at our rescue centre they are looked after by a team of babysitters. These dedicated local men and women provide the traumatised orphans with round-the-clock comfort and care. They wear face masks at all times to protect the babies from the human germs and diseases which could kill any orangutan, young or old.

While they are very small the baby orangutans also wear nappies to keep them free from infection. But once they are strong and healthy enough to join the older infants out in the forest the nappies come off and they start to learn how to live like a wild orangutan. 

The video shows Rickina during her first days at the rescue centre when she is as helpless and defenceless as a human baby. But after only a few weeks she is strong enough to be taken to “baby school” in the forest and meet some of the other young orangutans. The video of Rickina experiencing the outside world and learning to hang on the climbing frame is enchanting. She has an expression of complete wonder and surprise on her face as she dangles on the wooden structure. Her babysitter is constantly by her side to support and steady her.

The footage of Rickina as she starts to learn the ropes is far more than just another cute baby orangutan video – though it’s certainly that! But it also demonstrates the hours of patient coaching and care the orangutans are given to start them on their long journey to freedom. Day after day they are taken to the forest to build up their strength and develop the skills they will need to survive in the wild.

This is just the beginning for Rickina and her friends but it is a vital start to years of skilled preparation towards the day when they are released. Without the team in Borneo, these baby orangutans wouldn’t stand a chance. But thanks to International Animal Rescue – and thanks to everyone who supports us – the future is bright for Rickina and her friends. Watch this cute baby orangutan video to see just how brilliantly these babies are cared for.

Happy World Animal Day everyone!

16 September 2013

Yeeeha! Finally Muria becomes a fully wild slow loris again!

by Ayut Enggeliah Entoh from the Education Team

Muria was one of the rehabilitated slow lorises in the care of our primate rescue centre in Ciapus, Java. She is a female Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus), given by the pet owner to our team in Indonesia in 2010. After completing the rehabilitation process at the centre, she was then transported to the habituation cage in Salak Mountain National Park. Fitted with a radio collar, she spent about three months being habituated to her new surroundings. She was then released on 14 June 2012 and monitored by the IAR team for about fifteen months. On 9 September 2013, Muria’s collar was removed and she became a fully wild slow loris again. 

During the monitoring process Muria was reported as having a slight irritation on her neck, so she was recaptured and given medical treatment by the veterinary team. Once recovered, she was released once more. Monitoring has confirmed her ability to fend for herself in the wild. She was seen feeding on nectar of Kaliandra (Calliandra calothyrsus) and Seuseureuhan (Piper aduncum), sap of Jengkol (Archidendron pauciflorum) and various insects too. She was even observed mating with a wild slow loris. It proved that she was completely habituated to her environment and had every chance of living successfully back in the wild.

Conservation efforts for wildlife like slow lorises which involve the process of releasing them back into the wild are not straightforward. It’s not as easy as taking them from their habitat. One loris has to follow a long process before they can be returned to nature. 

It becomes our homework to spread the message on slow loris conservation. And we would like to invite you to spread the conservation message with us: “Please stop hunting, buying and keeping slow lorises as a pet!

21 August 2013


World Orangutan Day is an annual, worldwide event to create awareness and support for orangutans and for all the people who dedicate their lives to saving these iconic animals from extinction.

The main threats to orangutans are habitat loss because of the conversion of forest areas into monocultures and mining, followed by hunting for bushmeat. Many orangutans get captured or killed crossing plantations to find food after being dislodged by the increasing destruction of their habitat. Adult females are often killed and their infants sold in the illegal wildlife pet trade. Orangutan populations are estimated to have declined over 50% during the last 60 years, leaving the danger of imminent extinction in the wild very real.

International Animal Rescue’s rehabilitation centre for orangutans is located in West Kalimantan which is one of the most heavily deforested areas of Borneo. Between November 2009 and August 2013 more than 75 orangutans have been rescued by the IAR team in Indonesia (Yayasan IAR Indonesia - YIARI) and brought to the sanctuary of our centre and the number of animals in need is rising.

To increase awareness and knowledge about Indonesian orangutans YIARI collaborated with two other local NGOs, Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Programme and Fauna and Flora International-Indonesian Programme and the local Forestry Department and organised a march between the two biggest roundabouts on the main street of Ketapang.

About 150 people from all four organisations gathered on World Orangutan Day to distribute 500 tree seedlings, stickers and posters to passing motorists and pedestrians whilst holding up signs with conservation messages and singing an orangutan song. Participants from the Forestry Department spoke about orangutans and the threats they face via a loudspeaker.

Whilst this day is a symbol of global connectivity and action and important to create a greater public awareness and understanding nationally, it is equally (or perhaps even more) important to educate the communities living alongside orangutan habitat and engage as many locals as possible to participate in the conservation of this unique species.