25 July 2013

International Animal Rescue: Freedom for long-tailed macaques

by Tine Rattel

On 6 June this year, a further seventeen long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) were released on Panaitan island within the Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java.
All individuals went through the rehabilitation process at our centre in Ciapus, which includes behavioural observations, introduction to natural foods, group forming and enrichment provision to stimulate natural behaviours. Some macaques have been in the centre since 2009. Most of the macaques are rescued from the pet trade and have often been kept in tiny cages for many years from a young age.

Veterinarian Sharmini and macaque keeper
Wayne rescuing Cheetah in 2011 from his
prison cage where he had spent most of his
life. Cheetah was one of the group of macaques
released last month into Ujung Kulon National
For example, one of the released macaques, Cheetah, was rescued in 2011 by IAR Indonesia. He had been bought as a baby from a pet market and had been kept for seven years in the same cage, never being let out. The owners now wanted to get rid of him because he was (understandably) becoming more aggressive towards the owners. He then spent the next two years being rehabilitated at IAR’s Rescue Centre.

Prior to release all macaques received a general health check-up. They were also weighed, given microchips for future identification and were sterilised. The released individuals were selected for release based on health condition and behavioural results from pre-release monitoring.

Since the macaque release programme at the Ujung Kulon National Park started in 2009 our team in Indonesia has now released a total of 86 long-tailed macaques back to the wild, a process supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Agency of Indonesia (BKSDA).

Ciapus Programme Manager Aris Hidayat commented Unfortunately, under the current law, macaques still do not have any legal protection in Indonesia. Some of the animals were surrendered by their owners and others were simply abandoned. Giving these animals the chance to return to the wild, where they belong, serves their individual welfare and IAR’s dedication to rescue and rehabilitate suffering animals”.

Ujung Kulon National Park encompasses an area of 1,206 km² (443 km² marine), most of which is situated on a peninsula stretching out into the Indian Ocean. It was Indonesia’s first proposed national park and was declared a UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site in 1991 for containing the largest remaining lowland rainforest in Java. The park is rich in biodiversity including 40 species of mammals (five of which are primates), 240 species of birds, 59 species of reptiles, 22 species of amphibians, 142 species of fish, 33 species of corals and 57 rare plant species.
Macaque cages en route to freedom

This habitat is protected and provides sufficient food to support permanent macaque populations and is therefore an ideal release site for our animals.

We hope that our macaques enjoy their new freedom as they become more and more familiar with their surroundings, the lush green forest homes where these animals are meant to be.

23 July 2013

Adult orangutans on the move

By veterinarian Micah Jensen

The IAR centre in Ketapang has been a hive of activity in the last few weeks in preparation for the big orangutan move. Last week four of our largest female orangutans Mona, Huta, Mely and Cinta were moved from their housing at the old transit centre in Ketapang City to the newly built IAR rehabilitation site in Sungai Awan. This is a considerable change for the girls since they have been housed at the transit centre in Ketapang for several years. However with the construction of the new Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre well under way animals are being moved in stages from their old housing to the new site. While most of the younger individuals have already been moved to the forested rehabilitation area, it is now time to start moving the larger orangutans. Orangutans are known for their strength and ingenuity, they are the escape artist of the great apes, so special care needs to go into their enclosure preparation to ensure the areas are orangutan proof. The cages at the old centre are deteriorating with age, leaving the staff with the daunting task of trying to weld away rust as fast as tropical rain creates it. Thankfully when our handyman Dade comes to repair cages with his welding gear, he becomes great enrichment for the orangutans to watch!
Mely relaxes in her hammock!

The first step to their freedom was to move the four girls into the quarantine enclosure in Sungai Awan, which requires a general anaesthetic and a truck ride to their new home situated half an hour out of Ketapang. The quarantine enclosures at the new centre have been refreshed with new cage enrichment and a fresh coat of paint thanks to the Great Project volunteers, along with shiny new locks put in place that should keep Mona one of our craftiest females at bay.  When selecting which group of the large orangutans should be moved from transit first, Mona’s group was at the top of the list. The artful Mona had years ago been the mastermind behind an escape from her cage where she took three of her cage mates with her to raid the food room!

Clever Mona was first up for an anaesthetic as she can be the most suspicious of unusual events. Mona was anaesthetized by blow dart, while Cinta, Huta and Mely were very accommodating and all accepted hand injections of anesthesia through the bars. The girls were thankfully very co-operative, gently going to sleep, giving us smooth anaesthetics with rapid recoveries in their transport crates.
The blow dart is sometimes the safest
way to sedate these large animals

Christine thoroughly examines the
mouth for teeth issues
Anaesthetics provided a golden opportunity for the vet team to get close enough to each of the girls to give a full physical exam and collect any samples needed for health and genetics. Our team of veterinary staff and animal caretakers all worked like a synchronised sports team to get all the procedures done efficiently in a minimal amount of time. This is no mean feat considering it involved collecting blood samples, tracheal washes, hair samples, dental records, and growth measurements while giving a full general physical exam, taking x-rays and maintaining a smooth anaesthesia, all within half an hour.  After this flurry of activity the girls woke up from their unusual sleep on piles of leaves in their transport cages.  The crates were then loaded onto the back of flatbed trucks and the girls were able to watch people driving alongside, as we drove out of the town and into the rural area of the Sungai Awan Centre. They all sat watching intently with their fingers laced through the bars and Cinta moved leaves away to ensure she got a better view. The only hitch was a light shower of rain on the last ride back to the centre which was quite amusing for Cinta and Mely as they got to watch from their dry cages as the people and equipment around them got soaking wet.

A rare chance for the vets to get up close with
the adult orangutans
On arrival the girls all moved from their crates straight into their new cage and made themselves comfortable swinging in the new hammocks and bails. Within no time Mona was testing out every inch of the cage to exploit any weaknesses in the handywork. It will take a while for them to adjust to the new surroundings so we are providing lots of food, branches and enrichment to settle them in. The day after being moved Mona took advantage of her new settings and used her keen sense of timing to steal a cup of electrolytes off one of the new vets, but, rather than destroy the cup, she rested herself against the cage door and lazily used the cup of liquid to dunk her biscuits in. So she seems to be settling in nicely so far.

Photography by Thomas Burns

16 July 2013

An in-depth look at IAR's slow loris rehabilitation process

by Namrata B Anirudh

The IAR Indonesia centre in Ciapus, Bogor currently has 81 lorises consisting of 3 species – Nycticebus Coucang, N. Javanicus and N. Menagensis - rescued from pet owners and housed for rehabilitation and subsequent release. 

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to carry out behavioural studies as part of my dissertation on the captive lorises at the centre.

The Loris Project at the centre is a multi-dimensional one. A controversial and current problem with the illegal pet trade is the hunting of lorises from the wild and selling them in markets which are not suitable for any animals let alone endangered species. Apart from the conservation aspect, the cruelty towards these species in the market before they are sold is of great concern to people working in the field of rescue and rehabilitation. IAR Indonesia not only deals with the immediate problem of rehabilitating confiscated individuals, but also deals with other aspects of this trade, such as awareness-building among students and the public in major cities, in local villages around loris habitats; conducting interviews with people involved in different aspects of the trade; scouting for suitable release locations and monitoring those released from the centre.
Outreach work in Bogor
I worked with animals at the centre and therefore I can shed some light on this aspect of the work being done. The animals at the centre are confiscated at different ages. Some animals were born at the centre whereas some come in as juveniles or adults. The process of rehabilitation of species such as lorises can be tricky. The lack of abundant research on these species, the fact that they are nocturnal, sensitive to diseases, of small body size, possessing a different social repertoire from other diurnal primates and their coping strategies in a captive environment all make them difficult species to manage. However, in my view IAR Indonesia succeeds in managing them in the best possible way within those obvious constraints.

Erwin eating gum enrichment
The lorises are housed in cages, provided with trees, foliage, branches and twine in order to create a variety of substrates for locomotion, sleep and to be able to express as natural behaviour as possible. They are fed twice a day with a pre-set nutritional diet planned by the on-site veterinarians, with special attention given to those that are suffering from health problems and mother-infant pairs.

For the purpose of rehabilitation, International Animal Rescue ensures the following:
·         Arboreal
o   As these species are arboreal, all the food and water trays are placed at a height.
o   Sleeping sites, such as bamboo hollows and baskets are hung from the top of the cages.
o   Routine replacement of leaves and branches is carried out to make the cages suitable for the animals.
·         Insectivorous and frugivorous
o   Diet consisting of insects and fruits is provided. Every meal (fed twice in their active period) consists of different fruits and insects to avoid boredom and to provide them with their nutritional requirements.
o   The food is placed at a considerable height from the ground to encourage feeding at heights and minimise foraging on the ground.

o   All enrichment provided is food related. Enrichment is provided to the animals after the second meal, to encourage activity and discourage unwanted behaviours such as stereotypies and inactivity throughout the rest of their active period.
·         Grouping
o   The animals are grouped 2, 3 or 4 per cage depending on the cage size. Some cages have only a single loris depending on the type of social interactions with other conspecifics.
o   The groups are created according to the sex of the individuals, the type and amount of social interaction with others and depending on whether they are release or non-release candidates.
o   In my view, this aspect in the process of rehabilitation is vital, as socialisation is vital to the physical and mental welfare of an animal.
·         Sanctuary
o   The lorises that are to be released are housed in sanctuary cages. These cages are larger in size, have more foliage and trees and are partially covered by a roof. This is another very important point in rehabilitation, to get the animals accustomed to natural weather conditions and changes. The cages also have fruit trees to encourage foraging and reduce the dependency on the food provided to them.

An enthusiastic and motivated group of people manage the animals at the centre. My experience of working closely with them has shown that they know a lot about the individual animals and are keen to look after their welfare. It was interesting to see that they were also interested in different ways of creating enrichment that would reduce stereotypies in some of the individuals. The team is involved in cleaning, feeding and observing the animals. One to be released and 2 non-release animals are taken as focal animals and behavioural observations are recorded for 1 and 2 hours respectively every night, using an ethogram of social, individual and locomotory behaviours.
What could be worked on at the centre?

-          The movement of animals between cages - this is an important point as moving an animal from one cage to another could be stressful at many levels, such as forming new social bonds, getting used to the cage and its features, novel interactions, unfamiliarity. All of these could lead to behavioural problems. Another aspect is the welfare of the individuals present in the cage into which a new individual is introduced. Depending on the sex, age and the social ranking of the introduced individual, the form of interaction with the others may have an impact and may lead to negative interactions, resulting in injuries or stereotypic behaviour. The movement of individuals must therefore be done with a lot of care and understanding of the situation. The reason for movement should also be considered - Is the shift necessary or is there a way of dealing with the problem through any other methods? (eg enrichment, changing amount of foliage, substrates for locomotion – depending on the problem.) If a shift is made, then the animal shifted, as well as the animals originally present in the cage, must be observed for behaviour, food intake, interactions etc.

-          Increase height of cages - this is a problem that is difficult to deal with as the cages have already been established and have animals in each one of them. If the purpose is rehabilitation and lorises in the wild frequent trees up to 30 to 40 m in height, a similar opportunity must be provided at the centre as well, to avoid problems of predation for foraging too low after release. The height of the cages currently ranges from 2m to 8m (sanctuary). Since animals spend only a short time in the sanctuary cages before release, it is not sufficient for them to learn to use such heights.

-          Enrichment that is currently based only on food is effective but only for the period of time the enrichment lasts. Some of the enrichment lasts for a very short period or is not of interest to some individuals who spend a large proportion of their active period carrying out stereotypical behaviour. Introducing locomotory enrichment or finding a solution to discourage or reduce stereotypy is vital in the process of rehabilitation as well. A good way to go about it is in some cases to figure out the reason for stereotyping. Some tend to stereotype most before feeding and reduce stereotypic behaviour after being fed, some stereotype in the presence of a dominant conspecific, others during feeding which could be a result of the type of food or the competition in the cage for food. In others that stereotype for more than 50% of their active time, the reasons could be past experiences or small home range or reasons that cannot be determined, thus using some form of enrichment, trying to introduce/change the conspecific in the same cage or shift cages may be helpful.

In my opinion, the centre is making great efforts to turn around the current situation in the best way possible. Although there are areas that can be explored further, new ideas implemented and changes made to various aspects of the project, in my view the current project on the lorises deals with the situation holistically. Working with species like lorises has many constraints that are challenging but the centre manages to tackle a number of them and provide rehabilitation for those rescued which has been proven to be effective. The centre is also successfully returning a number of the lorises to their rightful home in the wild!

Returning a slow loris to the wild

For more information on the work International Animal Rescue does with slow lorises, please visit our website!

9 July 2013

International Animal Rescue: June update from Ketapang

Another month goes by in a flash! 

by Christine Nelson

Butan's "lipstick" is a bit of a giveaway!
Time flies when you are having fun! The orangutans in the forest school group move spots almost daily to help preserve the integrity of the trees, although this proves quite difficult when there are more than thirty playful individuals! Some of the animals are still gaining confidence and stick closer to their human keepers, but it is a happy sight to see Merah, Laksmi, Butan, and Marcela appear with stained lips and tongues from eating fruit they have found for themselves in the forest.

With help from our dedicated volunteers, a new location for baby school was constructed, giving our youngest rehabilitants more access to sunlight and a better section of forest.  This area has larger trees to climb and cool tools for snacks to be given in the heights.  Despite the new location, Tribun and Gembar are quickly outgrowing baby school and will soon need to learn the ropes in forest school.

The youngsters love this feeding platform

The team continues to take behavior observation data on some individuals as an assessment tool to determine when they could be considered for release back into the wild.  The orangutans must be followed and watched closely for several hours, and sometimes its hard to keep up with them as they swing through the trees!  

We are also outlining schedules to move more animals from our transit center to their new Sungai Awan home in the next couple of weeks.

 Don't forget to swing over to our Facebook page for more fab photos of the orangutans enjoying themselves in the forest!