30 April 2012

Enriching the lives of our primates

Volunteer Tine explains the importance of the enrichment programme to the primates – and the people – at our centre in Ciapus.
A schedule is prepared to ensure varied enrichment
To ensure high animal welfare standards at our centre we implemented an enrichment calendar in 2011 which makes sure that enrichment items vary and are given on a daily basis.

Enrichment is every addition to the environment of an animal in captivity that offers it the opportunity to behave naturally and therefore improve its welfare. We use enrichment mainly to stimulate natural behaviour, decrease abnormal behaviour, reduce boredom and to encourage activity. However, in order to conduct group-forming processes it can also be beneficial to manipulate social behaviour. One example is to provide enrichment items to keep dominant animals busy so others have time to relax and groom. If you are planning to introduce two animals to each other it can also be useful to see how the individuals react to new stimuli as a way to find out more about the character and behaviour of the animals.

The animals love a challenge
Another really important part of our work is the education of our animal keepers. We trained our local staff to take down behaviour using an ethogram (chart with behaviours represented by a code). This is usually done by university students and trained primatologists. They also learned how to use the collected data to create tables, graphics and presentations. By doing this, we can have a more objective method on collecting data of our animals at the centre. This is important to record an increase or decrease in abnormal behaviour, to observe if the provided enrichment has the desired effect and to measure the progress of an animal in the resocialisation and rehabilitation process.

Worms are hidden inside balls
Observations are particularly important before and after introductions. Like humans, apes and monkeys have different personalities and not everybody likes each other, so the recorded data show us if we have made a good choice for each individual. The more we understand about our animals individually, the more we can do to help provide them with a better life, particularly during captivity.

Seeds are stuck into melons
Whilst most of our local staff was sceptical about the reasons for enrichment and observations in the beginning, it is very nice to see that there has been a positive change in their attitude over time. As most of them didn’t get a chance to finish school, it makes them very happy to be able to learn how to use programmes like Microsoft Excel, Word and Powerpoint. At IAR, we believe that educating the local people is just as important as saving the animals!

A group of animal keepers is currently busy developing an enrichment catalogue showing how to create the different items we use. As soon as it is ready, it will be shared with other organisations and sanctuaries to encourage an active exchange of experiences.

18 April 2012

Lulu the slow loris makes a speedy getaway!

Most of the slow lorises that we care for arrive at our Primate Rehabilitation Centre in Ciapus, Java but vets were on hand recently to care for and release Lulu the slow loris from our Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Ketapang. Vet Silje Robertson tells us more...

Lulu ready for release
Not long ago a man brought a slow loris to our centre. He claimed it had appeared at his house the same day and offered to sell the animal to us. However, after some discussion he surrendered the animal to IAR. We gave her the name Lulu: she is an adult female with all her teeth intact and completely wild.  As she was slightly underweight we decided to delay the release for some days in order to make sure her medical condition was good and stable.

After a few days of recovering at the centre, we released her in the evening in the forest surrounding our new centre in Ketapang. There was nothing slow about her as she jetted out of the transportation cage and hurried up a tree close by! And who knows, maybe we will see her again someday after we make our big move.

As for the new centre, it is coming along in good speed. The foundation for the clinic and the quarantine area has already been started and it is very exciting to see the progress. View the photos on Facebook.

13 April 2012

Tulip and Pelangsi arrive, Ceria leaves the quarantine and Sigit and Ujang move to the big baby school

Vet Silje Robertson provides a round up of the latest news from our centre in Ketapang.

On Thursday afternoon last week our team set out on another confiscation action; this time in our own town of Ketapang. The owner contacted IAR and the forestry department himself and confessed to keeping a baby orangutan captive. The man claimed to have traded the animal for his gun a month earlier: the men he traded with said they had killed the baby’s mother and were going to kill the baby as well. She was given the name Tulip and was kept on a leash in a cage of about 2m² in their backyard. She was fed only with bananas and sweet biscuits. Tulip is naturally still scared, but is in good health and has a healthy appetite. For now she must settle for playing alone in the baby quarantine area, but as soon as she finishes her quarantine time she can join the others.

The team are working around the clock to save Pelangsi
The next day we received news of an orangutan being trapped in a wild boar snare in a forest area outside Ketapang; apparently for over a week! We rushed to the area and after a half hour trek in the forest we reached the site. We were all relieved to see that the animal, a young male, was still alive, although only barely. His right wrist was caught in the snare: a rope that lies covered under leaves on the ground and tightens and pulls upwards when the wild boar (or in this case the orangutan) steps in the loop. It soon became clear that his right hand could not be saved as what remained of the hand and wrist was only dead, severely infected tissue. We sedated him, freed him from the snare and gave him fluids as he was severely dehydrated before we transported him back to our clinic. He is given the name Pelangsi, after the area in which he was found. His condition is still very critical and he is not yet stable and strong enough to undergo surgery. Our medical team is working around the clock and we hope that Pelangsi will recover as soon as possible.

Ceria finished her quarantine period with flying colours last week and is now enjoying the playground in the baby school area. Albeit a bit hesitant in the beginning, now she seems to enjoy the company of her new friends. She has a bit more wild nature than our other babies and is bringing more speed in the game by climbing high and fast!

Sigit and Ujang were moved from the baby school to the back transit area with the older babies. This means going from an environment where you are the biggest and toughest to being the smallest! Sigit is adapting very well, but Ujang is not leaving Sigit’s side (or foot) and needs a bit more time to feel confident in the new area.