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.