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