23 November 2010

Sweet, gentle Mely starts to enjoy life

Our volunteer Carolynn sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

Mely the rescued orangutanIAR rescued Mely last month from horrendous conditions where she had been chained to a deck for 15 years, and it has been a privilege to watch her progress here in Ketapang. When Mely first arrived, her steps were very calculated and slow since she literally had to learn how to walk and climb, but now she can zip around her enclosure with ease and has no problems climbing to the top. She has become quite playful, and I always see her weaving in and out of tyre swings and ropes suspended in mid air.

Mely’s personality is so sweet that I never would have guessed that she came from such a horrific background. She always comes over to say hello whenever anyone greets her, and she is incredibly gentle. Sometimes when cleaning the enclosures, the orangutans will try to grab the rakes and brooms to play with them - or in many cases to tear them apart - and sometimes Mely tries to grab at them too. The difference is that Mely always promptly lets go as soon as I say her name somewhat firmly. Her eyes seem to apologize in an, “I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t resist trying to touch it for a second,” kind of way. I know Mely is stronger than I am, but she is so respectful that all I have to do is ask if I need something from her.

15 November 2010

Karmila finds friends in baby school and JoJo is overjoyed when John moves in

Our volunteer Carolynn sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

Karmila and SigitBaby school got a new member last week when baby Karmila met the other orangutans for the first time. We had to keep her away for six weeks after her arrival to make certain she is healthy and free of any infectious diseases, and luckily all her test results came back negative. Time for the real fun to begin!

Karmila was very apprehensive about leaving her daddy’s arms (keeper Angi has been her round-the-clock caregiver since she arrived). The other orangutans were extremely curious and all wanted to touch and play with her, so this must have been quite a shock for Karmila. We decided to make her first visit a short one since we didn’t want to overwhelm her, but the next day we tried again. She did much better the second time and climbed up high in the trees with her new buddies.

Melky in particular loves to wrestle play with anyone new entering baby school, so we kept a close eye on Karmila just in case Melky got too rambunctious. A few times we had to intervene, but mostly Karmila did a great job tolerating her new friends’ playing habits.

I caught Melky wrestling a bit too rough with Karmila under the feeding platform a few hours into her stay, and decided to intervene. I yelled out, “Melky no!!!” as I ran over, and before I got there Melky let go of Karmila and started to walk away. As soon as Karmila’s arms were free and Melky’s back was turned, Karmila grabbed a fistful of Melky’s hair with one hand and swatted at him with the other. I’ve never felt more proud of her, since a girl’s got to know how to defend herself! I’m extremely confident Karmila will thrive in baby school, and find her place within the group.

John and JeraKarmila wasn’t the only orangutan making new friends this week in Ketapang, since orangutan John also moved to a new living space. We introduced John to JoJo and Jingo, and they had such a fun time playing that we decided to keep them together in the same enclosure. As soon as we opened the doors, JoJo immediately ran to John and gave him a big hug that turned into an hour long wrestling match. I haven’t ever seen JoJo so filled with excitement, as he rolled about with John all around their enclosure. Jingo was also clearly excited, but he waited a few moments before joining the match. I frantically took pictures from every angle and position I could think of, but all of the photos turned out looking like the Tasmanian devil in a ball of fur! Luckily, I got a few decent shots later in the week.

3 November 2010

Pedro's sickness scares us all, while Mely soon settles in

Volunteer Carolynn from Seattle sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

Pedro the baby orangutanLast week was a stressful one here in Ketapang when our youngest orangutan, baby Pedro, became very ill. Monday morning was business as usual, with Pedro active and happy, but by lunchtime his fever had escalated to 40.2 degrees Celsius, and his eyes had sunk deep into his head with a look of drowsiness and disassociation. Veterinarians Dr Karmele and Dr Adi promptly put in an IV line to help bring his fever down and keep him hydrated while I dabbed his head and chest with a cool washcloth as he lay on my lap.

Pedro’s arms and legs cramped up and his skin was covered in goose-bumps. I was tempted to cover him with a blanket when Dr Karmele said, “The most important thing is that we get his fever down. People are tempted to cover themselves when they have the chills, but this could escalate his fever further. We have to cool his body.”

I prepared myself for the worst, since Pedro still had a fever hours later and large amounts of diarrhea. An IV pump and an Xray machine would have really come in handy to help with monitoring his status and diagnosing the illness, but we haven’t been able to buy either of those yet. Luckily, he was still willing to drink when offered a bottle and Pedro did improve by the end of the day.

The rest of the week was more of the same, with moments of recovery followed by the return of his fever. We tested him for every infectious disease and condition within our means, but no answers were found. Lack of sleep and worry had everyone on edge since Pedro needed 24-hour care. We took shifts watching him, but it’s hard to sleep while worrying about the little guy. Plus, it was quite a challenge keeping a constant eye on Pedro during a shift because he was very curious about the IV line in his arm and kept trying to tug and bite at it.

A wave of relief finally came on Sunday when it had been 24 hours since his last fever, and we were able to remove his IV line. It felt so good to hold him in my arms without a tube keeping him attached to his drip bag. Pedro was free!

The last few days came and went without a problem, and Pedro’s behavior has returned to normal. Well, almost normal, since I think he got used to the non-stop attention and affection over the last week. I’m so relieved our sweet little Pedro is recovering and able to give us strong hugs again.

Mely, our latest rescued orangutanWatching new orangutan Mely take her first steps into her new enclosure was a prideful moment for everyone at the center. Mely got to do so many things for the first time that day, like touch the hand of another orangutan (besides her mother when she was a baby), climb higher than one meter off the ground, and sleep in a bed of leaves. We were also able to remove the chain around Mely's neck later in the day, which was likely the most freeing moment of all for her.

Mely will have to learn what it means to be an orangutan, and we are delighted to help her with this transition. She will begin learning how to climb and find food off the ground in her current enclosure, but the real test will come once we have the funds to build a fence around our new forest land so that we can move the orangutans there. I can’t wait to see how Mely responds to climbing her first tree!