30 November 2011

Baby Butan arrives at the centre

Rescued baby orangutanIAR volunteer Paloma Corbi tells us about the worrying condition of the latest baby orangutan to be brought into our centre.

A new baby orangutan arrived at the centre on 23 November. She is a female of about four years old and currently receiving round-the-clock intensive care from the vets Adi, Silje, Lusy and paramedic Rica. We have named her Butan.

Butan is infected with a malaria parasite (Plasmodium sp). It's possible that it could be the same malaria parasite that Rahayu was suffering from (a non-falciparum, non-vivax Plasmodium). The team hasn’t yet established the species of Plasmodium but they are doing further tests to investigate it.

The little orangutan is only 6.6kg which makes her extremely underweight (she should be at least 15kg). She is very malnourished and showing signs of some neurological issues. She's making a little slow progress but she's most certainly much better than when she arrived.

29 November 2011

Mac makes friends among the infants

Paloma Corbi updates us on how Mac is getting on with the other orangutans at our centre in Ketapang, Western Borneo

Mac is a male orangutan of approximately 3 years old. He arrived at the centre on 19 October. He was confiscated in Pontianak, in an area close to Sintang. Apparently a family had kept him as a pet for at least a year. Then they found out that it was illegal to keep orangutans and they contacted the forestry department who told IAR about the situation. So a member of the team went to check the condition of the orangutan and, although he was in a good physical condition, he had a kind of dermatitis in his eyes, plus conjunctivitis. So the IAR vet gave the family some topical creams and treatments to give Mac until the forestry department gave permission for the orangutan to be rescued and brought to the IAR Orangutan emergency centre in Ketapang. Once all the papers for the confiscation were completed, Mac was rescued and brought to the centre. He kept the same treatment, adding also antihistamine oral medication, and thanks to all this care he recovered in about a week. His blood was tested to see if he has hepatitis , and also the tuberculin test was done. All the tests gave good results so that last week it was decided to socialise him with the rest of the babies.

First of all, Mac was socialised in the baby school while we observed how he behaved with the rest of the orangutans. At the beginning he was fine, investigating his new friends and playing with them, but at some point he started to play in a very rough way so that it was thought that maybe he would be better being with the orangutans in the infant area, and he certainly was! When we brought Mac to the infant area he started to interact with the rest of the orangutans, although he was a bit shy at first. After they made a full inspection of him, he started to get more confident, playing with Melky and Momo first and afterwards with Pungky and Mimi. He also thoroughly enjoyed climbing the trees and the platforms. Since that moment he has joined the orangutans in the infant area every day. And as soon as the new centre is finished he will be able to live in a large forested enclosure and learn how to be a real orangutan!

28 November 2011

Introducing little Lasmi

IAR volunteer Paloma Corbi introduces the latest addition to our Orangutan Emergency Centre in Ketapang, Western Borneo

International Animal Rescue Orangutan Rescue BorneoLasmi arrived at International Animal Rescue’s Orangutan Emergency Centre on 7 November. She is a female with an estimated age of around 3-4 years old. She comes from Ketapang: apparently she was in a police station and she stayed there for about a week before she was brought to the centre by the forestry department. The information they gave us from the police is that Lasmi was being carried in a cage by a man who, when he saw a group of policemen, ran away, leaving the cage with the orangutan on the ground. So the police decided to take her to their offices until they contacted the forestry department. Unluckily, there are some gaps in the information and it is always hard to find out what the real story is.

Orangutan Rescue BorneoIn any case, when Lasmi arrived at the centre she weighed 9kg, and her face was extremely pale. So her faeces were checked and they were fine. She was also given a blood test the day after she arrived to check if she had any problems and, although she was negative for Malaria, Typhoid was found. She was treated with antibiotics and also given iron to help with the production of red blood cells. When the vets analysed the blood by biochemistry, a liver dysfunction was identified. Thus she will be treated for a long time with multivitamins that come from the curcuma root. This helps the long term recovery of the liver function and apparently the treatment seems to be working as the last blood test done recently by biochemistry has been better compared with the first one done. Moreover she has been tested with the tuberculin test and it seems to be fine.

Lasmi was very shy during the first days but she is getting more confident by the day. She is still in the quarantine period which lasts 1or 2 months, so until then she can’t be socialised with the other baby orangutans. However, she likes to play alone with the enrichments and she loves to put everything on her head, even the food! Consequently she is frequently covered with mango, seeds or papaya. Strangely enough she doesn’t like bananas or the milk, but she loves syrup!! We are all looking forward to seeing her play with the other babies. Let’s hope it’s soon!

22 November 2011

Baby Gunung joins the orangutan family in Ketapang

Spanish volunteer Paloma Corbi updates us on the latest news from our orangutan centre in Ketapang

Baby Orangutan GunungA new baby orangutan arrived at the centre in Ketapang on 3 November. The information we have from the forestry department here in Ketapang is that a man found it in a tree, in an area very close to Gunung Palung called Tanjung Gunung. Apparently he reported to the Gunung Palung National Park office and the National Park contacted the forestry department so that they could rescue the baby. Unfortunately International Animal Rescue was only told about the incident the night before the orangutan was rescued, and so our team wasn’t able to be part of the rescue operation. Thus we don’t have first hand information about what really happened and all the information we have has come secondhand from the forestry department. It is certainly hard to believe that such a young baby orangutan could be found alone in the forest without any sign of the mother around.

Orangutan Rescue KetapangThe little orangutan has been called “Gunung “ which means “Mountain” in Bahasa Indonesian. He is a male and we estimate just two or three months old, so the little one had been separated from his mother really young.
His condition when he first arrived seemed fine at first glance. However he was really skinny and his weight was just 2.1 kg. When he was checked more thoroughly, the vets found lots of little red spots on his belly and his chest, possibly from an allergic reaction. Also, he had a deep wound on the right side of his head and it was infected - perhaps caused by the impact of falling from a tree but who knows? The baby was treated with topical lotion for his skin and his wound was cleaned every day and treated with antibiotic cream as well. Thanks to all this care he was completely recovered in less than one week.

Baby Orangutan International Animal RescueGunung has an awesome character even though he is so young: he is very curious, and he is really strong. He has a very powerful grip - very different from Pedro and Paolo. He is in 24 hour care as he needs a lot of attention, and the baby sitters said that he has a very good appetite, normally he is feeding with milk every two hours but sometimes this is shorter as he is hungry before the two hours are up!

The little “mountain” is right now in the quarantine period and it will be like that for one or two months. At the moment, Dr Anita and Paramedic Rica, inform us that his faeces have been already checked and everything seems fine. In approximately one month the bloods test will be done, and the tuberculin test as well. We hope everything about his health is as good as he looks!!

26 September 2011

Virgo the macaque joins the family in Ciapus

IAR vet Sharmini updates us on the latest news from our primate centre in Ciapus, Java, home to hundreds of slow lorises and macaques undergoing rehabilitation.

Virgo the macaque in quarantineIAR Indonesia received its newest member of the team on September 12th, when a female pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) arrived at the centre in Ciapus. The female, whom we have named Virgo after the September horoscope, was originally found in a local park, before being taken by the BKSDA to the Animal Sanctuary Trust Indonesia, who transferred the macaque to us.

On arriving at the centre, Virgo was placed in to quarantine and underwent a physical examination. As pig-tailed macaques are not native to Java, we were worried about her condition, but our tests showed that she is in overall good health. Although small at just 2kg, her fur is of a good quality, her body seems healthy and her eyes, ears, nose and mouth are clear. The only sign of any physical damage is a small indentation on her tail, but this doesn’t seem to be affecting her. We also tested her for TB, and her first test came back negative.

Virgo will spend a further period in quarantine, before being introduced to Julia, a pig-tailed macaque who had been kept as a pet and arrived at our centre in March. Since her arrival, Julia has made enormous progress and is in a socialisation cage with adult male Rambo, with whom she gets on well. We will separate Julia and Rambo and introduce Virgo to Julia privately, monitor how they interact with each other, and then, over time, decide whether to move them both back in with Rambo.

17 August 2011

Orangutan Susi is saved from suffering

IAR vet Dr Adi brings us news of the latest arrival at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, Western Borneo.

Susi was rescued by our team in KetapangOn 30 July IAR vet Dr Anita successfully rescued a four year old female orangutan named Susi from the community in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. When Dr Anita arrived she found poor Susi looking very miserable and living in a terrible state of neglect. She had some really severe injuries, including a foul-smelling neck wound from the heavy chain that had been around her neck for several years until it was eventually removed at Christmas 2010.

Susi was anaesthetised before she was treated. Then Dr Anita and her team checked the condition of the wound before cutting the neck hair around it and cleaning out the pus and necrotic tissue using H2O2. After that Susi was given an injection of antibiotics (Amoxyclav) and analgesic (Tramadol).

Susi was then put in a transport cage in readiness for the move to Ketapang for further treatment and care. During this evacuation process her condition was stable and her appetite was good: she was given all kinds of fruit and ate it all, including rambutan, banana, and mango. On arrival at the Airport Supadio Pontianak, the team headed to the administration of quarantine and cargo aircraft.

Finally, at 1600 hrs, accompanied by Dr Anita and Ms Niken (Balai KSDA Kalbar), Susi travelled to Ketapang, arriving just half an hour later and being brought straight to IAR’s centre. On arrival, Susi was transferred to the quarantine cage to get intensive care from the medical team. Hopefully her condition will improve during the next three to four weeks and her neck wound will begin to heal.

7 July 2011

Rahayu races along the road to recovery

Paloma Corbi updates us on little Rahayu's encouraging progress at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Rahayu is climbing to new heights!Rahayu the baby orangutan that arrived in April is making amazing progress. When she arrived she was in a very serious condition: she had the worst type of malaria and this had affected her neurological system. We were very worried during the first week. She didn't show any visual reflex and she was also having convulsions. Thanks to round-the-clock care and appropriate treatment she finally recovered from the malaria. She started to eat and improve by the day, but sadly we weren’t sure whether she would recover from her blindness.

Already two months have passed since then and we have to say that Rahayu's condition now is absolutely wonderful. She has gained 2 kilos since she arrived and now her weight is around 6kg. Her appetite is fine, she doesn't like milk but she drinks water, Oralit and carrot juices which she loves.

Sindi looks on as Rahayu climbs to the topAs her brain was affected by the malaria we have been treating her with lots of vitamins and a lot of carrot juices. Also, you can see that her eyes are brighter and she has recovered the pupil reflex. She is very active as well, she can climb trees better than other orangutans and she plays with them as well, particularly Sindi who has been transferred to the new playground area and who is probably her best friend. Sindi is always protecting Rahayu and defending her from Puyol who is always trying to bite her!

As for her blindness, the vets think that undoubtedly she can see as she shows great skill climbing the trees and she can recognise parts of the trees as the leaves and parts as the trunks. When the baby keepers put food in the trees, she is able to climb up to get it which is clear proof that Rahayu is able to see. So we can assume that Rahayu's case is one of the happiest that we have dealt with, and we are really thrilled at her amazing progress!

You can take part in IAR's exciting project to build a brand new rehab centre for orangutans in West Kalimantan. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity, so book now to avoid disappointment!

5 July 2011

Our orangutan infants have a new place to play

New arrival PungkyPaloma updates us on the latest improvements to International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

With 11 new orangutans arriving just last month, we have been making some improvements to the centre. As five of these orangutans are infants between 3 and 4 years old, it has been necessary to provide another area where they can play once they have completed the quarantine period. The new area is four times bigger than the baby school and it also has more trees.

The new baby orangutan play areaHowever, the ground is wet, which is good because it makes them spend more time in the trees, but at the same time it is hard to build platforms and structures for them to play on.

During this entire month the plan has been to prepare this area for the new infant orangutans, although Melky, Bunga and Sindy are already enjoying the area.

The new play area provides the infant orangutans with more trees and space to exploreThanks to the help of the first volunteer group from WOX, the Great Orangutan Project, and IAR’s Ketapang team, the first platform has been finished. It has four floors and is very strong. The idea is to give the orangutans food on these platforms so they will get used to being high up and overcome any fear.

We still have a lot of work to do to make this infant area a great place which they can really enjoy, while at the same time training and improving their natural behaviours. It will be wonderful to see them all playing once it is finished!

You can take part in IAR's exciting project to build a brand new rehab centre for orangutans in West Kalimantan. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity, so book now to avoid disappointment!

13 June 2011

Our 11 new orangutans soon settle in

PrimaTeam vet Jenny Jaffe updates us on the new arrivals at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

The rescue centre in Ketapang has been going through some quick changes in the last month. We took in 11 new orangutans in one go, so a lot of preparation was needed to receive them and it is a bit busier now. All of the new animals have already had their thorough health check (under anaesthesia) and are settling in well in their new environment.

There are five youngsters called Pungky, Momo, Mimi, Prima and Pinoh. They are very lively and active, and have amazed me by already being able to open a huge coconut on their own.

RajaThe adults are Pingky, Suki, Neng, Cinta (all female) and Raja and Jimo (males). Raja is very strong and people passing by the cage have to keep a good eye on him as he does like grabbing your t-shirt to pull you closer to the cage. And then its a bit of a challenge to get him to let go!

A huge new enclosure has been prepared at the back of the transit centre. The orangutans that were getting a bit too boisterous for the baby school have already been moved there (Bunga, Cindy, Melky). When the new youngsters have passed their quarantine period, they can get to know their new friends and make the most of their new home by swinging on the ropes and through the trees. It is not yet the forest environment that we have envisioned for them, but it is already a step in the right direction.

You can take part in IAR's exciting project to build a brand new rehab centre for orangutans in West Kalimantan. This is a one in a lifetime opportunity, so book now to avoid disappointment!

27 May 2011

Rahayu’s progress makes us proud

Team vet Jenny Jaffe updates us on Rahayu's progress at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Rahayu climbing up the jungle gymRahayu, the baby orangutan that was brought to us with severe malaria and who needed intensive care for weeks, is doing well. She has gained a good amount of weight and been integrated with the rest of the baby school now.

She can obviously hear by this point, but still cannot see owing to damage from the malaria parasite. I was initially a bit sceptical about how well a sightless orangutan would do in (our miniature version of) a forest, but our executive director Dr Karmele, assured me she knew of a blind adult at another rescue centre who was able to climb up high in the trees.

So after Rahayu’s quarantine period was over and she had showed skills at mastering her little jungle gym/hammock structure, we dared introduce her to the rest of the group. First just for half an hour, but when she showed supreme confidence, the next few days for longer and longer periods of time. Now she is out and about most of the day with the others. She climbs about happily, waving a free arm around till she finds something to grip, and then holding on very tight. She can manage to get to the very top of the tallest tree we have here at the baby school. She can even deal with the other orangutans playing with her while up there, pulling at an arm or a leg. We are so proud of her.

Rahayu clinging onto MelkyOne of the funniest moments was when she latched onto our biggest, brashest male orangutan at the baby school, Melky.

He is normally a bit of a bad boy, but now he was staggering around with Rahayu holding on tightly with her little hands and feet to the hair on his belly. Melky looked like a proper surrogate daddy for a brief moment. You could almost see him thinking: ‘How on earth did I end up in this position?’

16 May 2011

Bandut takes to the treetops

Team vet Jenny Jaffe updates us on Bandut's progress at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Bandut the infant orangutan takes to the trees!Bandut, the newest addition to our group and the star of my last blog entry, is doing well. He is still in quarantine while we await the results of his blood tests (they were sent to an external lab). The stool samples we examined in our clinic just after he arrived were negative for worm eggs. But to be on the safe side we gave him deworming medication anyway and some nice dead worms came out with his stool the next day, so I’m happy our ‘new animal protocol’ does routinely include deworming!

The idea of keeping him separate from the other youngsters for a fixed period is of course to prevent him from transmitting any new diseases to them.

Bandut enjoys climbing treesApart from his health our main concern was that he might find it hard to get ‘jungle skills’ as he had been treated as a human baby for so long. Happily, during the day, when he is out of the enclosure he sleeps in, he loves climbing high up in the trees. And he is managing to find the small ripe fruits up there hanging from the farthest branches. Bandut is monitored constantly while he is exploring, as the ‘emergency centre’ he stays at is not really built for curious little orangutans and without somebody watching him, he could easily escape!

It might have been mentioned before, but this is the set up we have now: the ‘emergency centre’ for the 11 older orangutans who stay in big cages, and the ‘baby school’ playground for the 14 youngsters. This is a temporary set up though, and work is already underway on the new land that has been acquired about 15 kilometres away. It is a wonderful location for true rehabilitation as it is surrounded by and contains quite a lot of forest with the huge trees orangutans love. It is an enormous job to create the quality rehabilitation centre we have envisioned there and it needs a large investment. But the idea of seeing these forest apes swinging happily in the trees all day long is extremely motivating. International Animal Rescue Indonesia has some exciting times coming up...

3 May 2011

Hope for Rahayu and introducing Bandut

Team vet Jenny Jaffe updates us on little Rahayu's progress and introduces Bandut, our latest arrival at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Baby orangutan Rahayu is improvingRahayu, the baby orangutan who was rescued recently and had cerebral malaria, is a lot stronger now. Instead of sleeping the whole day, she is now quite active, crawling around and climbing in her little jungle gym reasonably well. She has a ravenous appetite, although we have to be a bit careful about how much and what we feed her, as she gets bloated quite easily. The main issue is that she still cannot see. She arrived this way and it is almost certainly a result of the malaria. Either by damage to the retina directly or because the sight centre in her brain was damaged during the bout of cerebral malaria. Though she obviously cannot see, she does have a pupillary reflex (her pupils get smaller when we shine a bright light in her eyes), so we do have some hope that her sight might improve in the future. Although there have been many cases of malaria in baby orangutans in other rescue centres, very few have had blindness as a symptom, so it is hard to predict what will happen to Rahayu from other cases.

Baby orangutan Bandut explores his new enclosureOur most recent rescue is luckily quite a healthy individual. His name is Bandut, and he is one and a half years old. He was rescued on 28 April in a town quite a few hours' drive away from Ketapang by our vet Anita, babysitter Dede and field director Argitoe. They left at 4am to be able to make the trip in a day and not arrive back too late.

Bandut is an extremely handsome little boy and knows very little of the life of a wild orangutan. He was kept by a childless husband and wife who treated him as their baby. He was pretty much fed the diet of a human infant (rice, milk etc.) and slept in bed with the wife. The couple is quite poor, but took care of him as best they could.

The story goes (again, you never know the level of truth it contains) that he was found by the side of the river as a tiny baby, still hairless and with the umbilical cord still attached. No mother in sight...

The couple took him into their home and the husband recently decided the time had come to give him a better life before bandut would become unmanageable.

After a long trip in the back of our pick-up, Bandut arrived at the IAR orangutan centre where he showed a lot of resilience, exploring his new home and eager to try new fruits more suitable to the diet of an orangutan. He is quite keen on contact with humans, so our main challenge will be teaching him the forest skills he has never learnt in his life till now.

27 April 2011

The orangutans go nuts for bottles and buckets of sawdust!

Ujang the infant orangutan playing with the sawdustPaloma updates us on how our rescued orangutans are enjoying their enrichment programme at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Every day the orangutans enjoy a different part of the monthly environmental enrichment programme. One of these enrichments is made with sawdust which they love to play with and also, if we add some nuts and seeds, they will spend time foraging for them. It is very interesting to see the reactions of the different orangutans to the enrichment, depending on their various personalities.

Sindi jumps into the sawdust bucket!At the baby school, we put the sawdust in a bucket which is placed between two hammocks. After filling the bucket to the brim with sawdust the curious ones soon come to investigate and examine it. They carefully remove the sawdust in small handfuls, but normally one of them gets very excited and has a wild game with the bucket and the sawdust. The last time Sindi took the lead. She hurried over when she saw the rest cautiously investigating the bucket, and then she was so excited that she jumped straight into it!

Then she climbed out again, landing on the grass but at the same time holding on to the bucket and trying to knock it over, which she eventually succeeded in doing. Then Sindi started to cover her head and her face with the sawdust and was clearly having the time of her life!

Karmilla the infant orangutan playing with the sawdustKarmilla, who is normally very shy with the enrichment and doesn’t engage very often, was there too and her fur was full of the sawdust because of Sindi's game. The other orangutans were completely surprised by Sindi's reaction: they just watched her and occasionally tried to join in but she was so focused on the sawdust that she hardly noticed the other orangutans.

The older orangutans at the emergency rescue centre have also enjoyed this enrichment, but in a different way. We usually put the sawdust inside a 19l bottle, adding also some rolled up newspaper and some peanuts and then we put the bottle inside the enclosure.

Monte empties the sawdust form the bottleI have seen different reactions to this enrichment: for example, the first thing Monte does is get the newspaper out of the bottle. But when he gets it out he doesn’t do anything with it. He tips the bottle up and watches the sawdust falling, then he tries to catch the peanuts that are falling with the sawdust.

However, his enclosure mate Patrick has found a better way to get the peanuts: he gets the newspaper that Monte takes out from the bottle and spreads it out on the floor of the enclosure, then he gets the bottle and lets the sawdust fall on the newspaper, so the peanuts can’t fall through the bars onto the ground below.

I have also seen this technique used by the group of Jojo, Jingo and John, but in this group, Jojo is the one who manipulates the bottle, letting the sawdust fall onto the newspaper, while Jingo and John are watching and waiting for the moment when the peanuts appear and then they quickly snatch them!

JoJo, Jingo and John looking for peanutsAfter finding all the peanuts they all remove every bit of sawdust from their fur and also spend a lot of time just playing with the empty bottle.

This kind of enrichment is excellent as occupational entertainment because it encourages the orangutans to forage and explore new textures. It also stimulates them to think of the best ways to get the peanuts that are hidden in the sawdust. And clearly they all have a lot of fun too!

15 April 2011

The infants are given plenty of playthings to keep them out of trouble!

The new orangutan playground
Paloma updates us on how Monte is getting on at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

AMelky enjoys playing in the net tube new play area has been built in the baby school at the orangutan rescue centre. The infants and babies were becoming very difficult to control because there are so many of them and the area is really too small for such a naughty group! For this reason it was decided to build another roof and add more structures and enrichments to focus our infants’ attention and give them something new to play with and enjoy together.

From my observations last year and at the moment as well, I can see that they really like the vertical and horizontal ropes and they love the tubes. They go inside them and rest there or just play going in, on or through. So we have equipped the area with various physical enrichments, some different from the tube function, some similar, adding also ropes, ladders and hammocks.

Bunga enjoying the blue barrelOne example is the tube made out of a big barrel. I just cut the bottom off the barrel and put the rope through it, then hung it high up from one side of the play area to the other. I made some holes as windows so that when the orangutans are inside the barrel they can observe what is going on outside. We have hung two of them up in the play area and they really love them.

Sindi enjoying her hammockAnother thing they used to like last year were the hammocks with roofs made from tyres and sacks. Before I tried this just with two tyres but now I have tried it with three, and it is much better! I like to use the tyres because they are made of very strong material and so are very durable and we also get them for free. So I have tried other ways to make the tubes a bit different. Using a net and the tyres, it is possible to make tubes that are vertical and horizontal, and they seem to enjoy using them a lot.

Bunga and Montu playing with the tyre wallWith the horizontal tube, the net gets smaller in the centre of the tube as it is very tight. Then, when they go inside they use it to lie down and it makes them slide from one side to another. With the vertical tube the orangutans like to climb it from the inside, at the same time playing at putting the net on their faces. I also add a rope inside with many bamboo pieces so they can play with it, moving the bamboo and getting pleasure just with the noise the bamboo makes. The tyres have also been used to make a simple wall of tyres: it is very easy to do and they really love going through, up and over it.

Bunga hanging out in the net tubeAlthough there are already many structures and the orangutans play a lot in the new area, it is important to evaluate now how much they use each new enrichment and how durable it is. Then we can fix the ones that haven’t been successful and look for ways to improve them and make them work. I love this task and the most rewarding thing about it is seeing how much the orangutans all enjoy it!

17 March 2011

Monte proves a quick learner and enjoys the enrichment

Paloma updates us on how Monte is getting on at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Monte sucking honey from the leavesMonte, who is the oldest of all the orangutans in the emergency rescue centre, has been already tested for possible diseases and given general checks. Fortunately the results have been negative for hepatitis and tuberculosis and the blood test levels seem to be alright. Therefore it hasn't been necessary to put him on any treatment at the moment.

However, the vet Doctor Anita thinks that maybe Monte has some problem with his coordination or eyesight. It seems that he can't coordinate some actions properly, such as, when we give him a banana, sometimes he can't take it on his first attempt and this is probably due to some deficiency in his sight. Also, she thinks that he may have a lack of calcium in his bones because of his locomotion. For this reason he is taking multivitamins for his bones.

Despite this, Monte has learnt very quickly in his training for a blood test. We are still on the first steps with him but it is likely he will learn very fast: after just two sessions he is able to give us his arm and stay relaxed. It gives us very good expectations for his learning, and shows how intelligent Monte is.

Paloma preparing the enrichmentsWith regard to the enrichments I have been trying, Monte loves the enrichments with leaves, just like the rest of the orangutans. I just spread some honey on leaves and make little sacks with some fruit inside placed between the branches. He likes to suck each leaf and then afterwards play with the rest. He also likes the big cardboard boxes with some banana spread and some powder: so funny to see how, after licking off all the banana very carefully, he uses the box to put on his head and try to clean himself from the powder!

10 March 2011

Paloma returns to Ketapang to find bigger, hairier, happier orangutans!

Paloma has returned to Ketapang after some time away in Australia and gives us her first impressions on how the orangutans are progressing.

Monti investigating a tube filled with foodIt has been already seven months since I left Ketapang last June. For sure during this time I have been missing this place and the orangutans and luckily I have been able to come again for another six months.

My first impression about the orangutans after all this time has been so good. It is so nice to see right now all the babies playing together in the playground area, they are so many, and it is so amazing how the babies I knew have grown. I couldn't believe that the hairy orange ball who was climbing everything so confidently was Monti! She is so big and independent that it is a real pleasure just to observe her for hours.

Melky playing with sandMelky is already a big boy and the boss of all the babies. His weight is 18.5kg, and he is really powerful. The baby keepers do a very good job because I can imagine how difficult it must be to cope with him. I remember he used to be very cheeky when I was looking after him in the baby school, but right now he is two times bigger, therefore it has to be really hard work. Luckily the enrichments keep him busy, yet sometimes he looks for strange activities too, such as making a hole in the ground by himself and playing with the wet sand that can be found about 30 cm under the surface. He even enjoys putting his head into the hole and staying there with his head down. Perhaps he’s trying to cool his head down. So interesting to see him playing!

Sindi on the roofAlso I have noted that Sindi is probably the most independent of all the babies and the biggest after Melky. She likes to be around in the trees at the highest points and watch what is going on outside the baby school. Probably she loves the wind in these places because the other day she was just sitting on the roof of the playground area and suddenly she just stood up and opened her mouth, closing her eyes as though she was just enjoying feeling the wind.

Ledi investigating food enrichmentI have met also the nine new baby orangutans - Karmilla, Ongky, Jack, Puyol, Ujang, Ledi, Cemong and the youngest Paolo and Pedro. This first week in the centre I have been training myself to recognise each one. This is hard work for the first few days but after a while it becomes so evident which one is which!

In the adult enclosures my big surprise was to see Mona with very healthy and long hair. JoJo also has grown very good looking because when I left he had very little hair and now his arms, body and head are covered and his beard grows again. I can see also that the capabilities of many of them have improved a lot. Before I would only see Mona using the branches from the vegetation as a tool to get food from the nearby cages and from the outside, but these days I have also seen Huta, Jingo and JoJo using this skill: probably they have learnt it from Mona.

JoJo is now using toolsI also met the new adult: Monte, the oldest of all of them; Mely now with the female group - Mona, Nicky and Huta; Peni who is very aggressive towards humans and, knowing her history, I completely understand why; John who is now with the male group - JoJo and Jingo, and Patrick, the smallest in the transit, always looking for a bit of a game between the cages with the male group or with Monte.

Moreover the centre is getting bigger and also the team has grown a lot, with new keepers and baby keepers. For this reason I will focus my work on the enrichments to try to make all the orangutans’ lives busy and fun while they are still in the emergency centre. Luckily I could meet Carolynn and she showed me the work she was doing during her stay and we practiced the training behaviour to get blood tests from JoJo and Mely. I think it is a very important issue and very interesting work, thus I will be very happy to continue with it under the supervision of vet Anita.

And of course I will keep sending through news and updates frequently!

Shoulders to the wheel!

16 February 2011

Little Paolo enjoys his playground freedom

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

Paolo the baby orangutanDuring the last couple of weeks baby Paolo has been impressing us all in Ketapang by showing off his independence and climbing skills. He is still only about 10 months old, but he can entertain himself for hours climbing the trees at baby school. He used to spend all his time in the nursery with his buddy Pedro, but now Paolo spends at least a few hours every day socializing in the playground. Pedro comes down to baby school to play as well, but he is still quite attached to his babysitters, and isn’t ready yet to play for long lengths of time by himself.

The other baby school orangutans had already met Paolo during shorter visits, so it hasn’t been too shocking to have him around more often. Orangutan Ledi recently entered baby school as well, and has enjoyed having a new rookie to play with.

I think Paolo really enjoys the freedom that comes with baby school, including not having to wear a diaper. He immediately starts dancing and thrashing his legs with glee as soon as it has been removed. Be careful where you stand though, since an orangutan without a diaper could be climbing above you!

1 February 2011

JoJo proves the perfect pupil

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

JoJo willingly holds out his armJoJo made us all very proud here in Ketapang last week when he willingly presented his arm to receive a sedation injection, allowing veterinarians Dr Anita and Dr Adi to test him for tuberculosis.

I have been working with JoJo using positive reinforcement training and a clicker for the past two months, and his willingness to learn despite his fear of needles has been astonishing.

JoJo the orangutanIt didn't take JoJo long to understand that when I made the "click" sound with the clicker, it meant he has behaved correctly and was about to get a piece of apple or banana covered in honey. I started out rewarding JoJo with treats for placing his arm in my hand, and then gradually extended the duration he had to patiently wait while I held his arm and disinfected a patch of skin with alcohol. After JoJo was comfortable with this behavior, I brought a needle with me for training sessions, and either showed it to him or gently touched it to his skin depending on his comfort level. It didn't take long before we were able to prick his skin with the finest needle we have, and JoJo allowed us to do so knowing that a big reward was sure to follow.

I've often felt as though JoJo enjoyed the praise and communication between us just as much as the treats and rewards. JoJo always happily took tasty food treats from me after having completed the correct behavior, but before looking at the treat he would always look to me for verbal and visual praise, as if he wanted reassurance that he is fantastic, that we are still friends, and again that he is indeed fantastic!

26 January 2011

Meet Patrick the prankster

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

Patrick joined our group in Ketapang late last year, and luckily has been in good health and spirits since day one. He was kept as a pet by a Buddhist Monk in Pontianak for about a year, but luckily the conditions were miles better than those of most pet orangutans.

Patrick the orangutanAt the age of four, Patrick is very much a prankster and absolutely loves attention. The other day I was sitting in front of orangutan Peni's enclosure to try and get a good photo of her, and Patrick was super jealous that he wasn't the one getting stared and gawked at.

Patrick found a branch in his enclosure that was just long enough to reach me, and he batted at me several times with it. I tried to swipe it from him, but he was too fast and retreated as though he had grown tired of the game. As soon as I had my camera set up and had forgotten about Patrick, I felt something poking me in the side. I turned my head and saw Patrick with both his arms fully extended and his signature mouth open play-face, gleefully manipulating the stick. "Patrick!!!" I yelled, as I leaned to grab the stick. That time I was faster than Patrick, and the stick was mine.

Before too long, I felt the familiar jab in my side again while trying to take a picture, and of course it was Patrick again with another branch. In the future I'll be sure to spend some time playing with Patrick before taking photos of the others, at least when I'm within branch-poking-range.

6 January 2011

Infants Jack and Puyol go to baby school

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

Bunga and PuyolNew orangutans Jack and Puyol finished their quarantine periods this week and were able to enter baby school along with the rest of the baby orangutans.

Jack appeared most comforted by Melky and Sindi who immediately wanted to wrestle and rough-house, while Puyol was definitely most excited about the carrot and honey enrichment treats hidden high up in the trees.

Puyol’s appetite never ceases to amaze me. He's still a little guy, but don’t let those skinny arms fool you. I'm sure he'll start building some more muscle on his limbs now that he has the whole day to climb and play with the group.

I was excited to see orangutans Puyol and Karmila first meet at baby school since they are both about the same age. They said “Hello” by meeting in the trees and gently tugging each other's hair a bit. I think they will make good buddies since they both tend to be a bit more laid back and relaxed than the others.

BungaOrangutan babysitter Nur had the great idea to gather a bundle of wet leaves and sprinkle a nutrient-packed fruit supplement powder called “bubur” on top for the orangutans to forage for. Nur suspended the tasty bundle above the baby school feeding platform and the whole group foraged with great interest for at least a half hour. It was quite funny to see them all with powdered, sticky faces. This is a great way to keep them occupied while still teaching them about the importance of looking upwards for food using all natural materials.

Orangutan Bunga was one of the first to race up the platform to explore the new enrichment. Bunga might just be the most curious of all of our orangutans, always interested in exploring novel objects and finding new things to play with. I’m always laughing at Bunga’s curiosity with clothing, since she frequently tugs on her babysitters’ trouser legs and shirts as if to say, “What is the point of this stuff?” I’ve also caught her peeking inside baby Pedro’s diaper, which always has me howling with laughter.

Bunga, Puyol and MelkyBunga’s curiosity also translates well into friendliness towards the other orangutans as well as with her human babysitters. I like to think of Bunga as “the popular girl” since she seems to be friends with everybody. She frequently joins in on the wrestling matches with the high-energy orangutans, while she is also content to sit and groom with her more laid back friends Ujang and Sigit. Even when she is naughty it’s hard to stay mad when she rushes over with her arms outstretched above her head. The group would not be the same without her.