8 August 2013

Updates on our orangutans large and small!

by vet Christine Nelson from the US

Desi, Prima and Helen hang out in the new enclosure
The past month was busy as usual in Ketapang and Sungai Awan, and was kicked off by moving Prima, one of our adolescent females, to the forest enclosure. Here she was reunited with her former cagemate, Helen, and a couple of other friends. Helen and Prima are the next candidates for release, but their behavior must be evaluated first to ensure they will be able to survive in the wild. In the enclosure, the girls are observed from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep for the night, which makes for a long day! Some food is provisioned, but they are free to search the trees for fruit and leaves. Data is taken to determine how they are spending their time, what kind of forest foods they are finding and where, and how efficiently they are making their nests.

Aside from the group of females that moved earlier in July (see Adult Orangutans on the Move), the team has also started to transfer some of our older males to the new center. There is a load of coordination and preparation that goes into any move, but it is worth it when all is accomplished safely and efficiently.  Much like their female counterparts, John, Patrick, and Jimo had smooth anesthesias and were very curious to see the bustling streets of Ketapang fly by during the transport. They are now busy exploring and adjusting to their new temporary digs in the more tranquil setting of Sungai Awan. They will move into larger, outdoor enclosures when construction is finished.

The gorgeous new addition
July has also brought us a tiny new baby named Marie. She literally arrived on our doorstep one evening after being surrendered to IAR by her temporary owner. Marie only weighs about 2 kilograms, but she is likely around 7 to 9 months old. She is thin and very small for her age, potentially due to malnourishment. She does show some promising wild behavior, as she climbs well on her hammock, likes to play with leaves, and loves to eat the fruit we pick for her. The baby was found by a fisherman who was walking in the forest and heard crying. He says the little orangutan was there alone (which would be highly unusual), so he took her back to his home when her mother did not come for her. The man kept her for a couple of weeks, but decided to hand her over to IAR because he could not afford to feed her any longer. She was bathed often, had been eating rice and bananas, and was given milk, sometimes the strawberry-flavored variety. We may never know the fate of her mother or Marie’s true story, but we are glad she is now under our care. 

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