Month: November 2017

Three Amigos!

Arief and Belinda

Arief and Belinda

On Tuesday morning, three of our PRM team from Camp Nles Mamse – Luy, Cohel and Valerie – headed toward the phenology transect 2 in search of Belinda, a female orangutan we released in July this year. A few days prior, the team had spotted Belinda as they were returning to camp.

Fortunately the team found Belinda not far from the nest she was previously seen resting in. The team began to observe her and collect data on her activities. Shortly after, the team saw movements in the canopy, followed by the appearance of Long and Arief!



Belinda, aware that Long and Arief were coming her way, greeted them as they arrived, and the three spent time together. Arief seemed to be still quite attached to Long, and kiss-squeaked twice before leaving his adoptive mother’s side to approach Belinda, who couldn’t resist her adorable visitor’s invitation to play.

Arief followed Belinda’s every move, while attentive Long observed and allowed him the freedom to play with his new friend. Belinda didn’t seem to mind Arief trailing her; she paid him attention with loving strokes every now and then, and even shared some of her food with the young male.

Long and Arief

Long and Arief

Arief played and wrestled with Belinda, who patiently tolerated her young playmate’s antics. Belinda tried to build a nest, but soon stopped her construction efforts when she realised Arief was still in the mood to play. After some time, Arief returned to Long, giving Belinda the chance to prepare her night nest.

Daylight started to slowly fade and the nocturnal insects began to sound their night choir. It was time for the team to leave the trio to rest for the night.

It was fantastic to have witnessed these three orangutans thriving in the Kehje Sewen Forest. Wrapping up a successful day of observations, the team headed back to camp to share their story of Belinda, Long and Arief.

Text by: PRM team in Camp Nles Mamse, Kehje Sewen Forest

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Coming Home! Two Orangutans repatriated from Thailand & 10 more on the path to freedom

The BOS Foundation, in cooperation with the Central Kalimantan BKSDA and the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (BBBR-NP) office, are preparing to release two orangutans repatriated from Thailand to the BBBR-NP in Katingan Regency, Central Kalimantan.

Nanga and Sukamara, who were returned to Indonesia from Thailand in 2006, undertook the long road to rehabilitation at the Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Center in Nyaru Menteng (Nyaru Menteng) to prepare for life in the wild. The two will join ten other orangutans in the 7th BOS Foundation release conducted in the BBBR-NP. This will be the 19th release undertaken by the BOS Foundation in cooperation with the Central Kalimantan BKSDA since 2012. 

Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, November 9, 2017: Upholding our commitment to the #OrangutanFreedom campaign, in which we aim to release 100 orangutans to natural habitats and a further 100 to pre-release islands by the end of 2017, the BOS Foundation in cooperation with the Central Kalimantan BKSDA and the BBBR-NP office will today release more rehabilitated orangutans to natural habitats. This release will also mark ‘Hari Cinta Puspa dan Satwa Nasional’ (National ‘Love Flora and Fauna’ Day), which falls annually on November 5.

The 12 orangutans to be released today include four (4) males and eight (8) females. Two of the females are Nanga and Sukamara, who were repatriated from Thailand in a year when the BOS Foundation received a total of 48 orangutans from Thailand (2006). From this group, Nanga and Sukamara are the 2nd and 3rd orangutans to be released to the wild.

The orangutans will be transported in two separate batches over land and river, on a 10-12-hour journey from Nyaru Menteng to predetermined release points in the BBBR-NP. The first batch will depart from Nyaru Menteng today, while the second batch will leave on November 11. This 19th orangutan release will bring the total population of rehabilitated orangutans released to the BBBR-NP to 71 individuals.

Dr. Ir. Jamartin Sihite, BOS Foundation CEO said; “Orangutan rehabilitation involves a long process, one which cannot be rushed or achieved over a short period. You can see in this particular release, we have two orangutans who were repatriated in 2006. It took 11 long years of rehabilitation before these two individuals were ready to live an independent life in the forest. We cannot simply release orangutans in the wild and expect them to thrive. They need years of training, and the opportunity to practice and hone their survival skills. This not only takes time, but also requires a lot of money. Therefore, rehabilitation, as part of the conservation effort, depends greatly on the participation of many stakeholders. We cannot do this alone.

The orangutan is the only great ape native to Asia, and is also our closest living relative. Protected by the law, orangutans play a very important role in the forest, positively impacting on forest regeneration. This should drive us to work harder to protect and preserve these uniquely beautiful creatures.

We are proud to return hundreds of orangutans back to natural habitats, but we can only do so with continued support. Together, let’s protect the remaining forest areas to secure natural habitats for orangutans, because a well-protected forest can give us all a better quality of life.”

Ir. Adib Gunawan, Head of Central Kalimantan’s Conservation of Natural Resources Agency (BKSDA), said; “This orangutan release is very timely, as it coincides with Hari Cinta Puspa dan Satwa Nasional, which falls annually on November 5. The government declared this national day 24 years ago, over concerns for the preservation of flora and fauna in Indonesia. The government has launched programs to save, protect, and take care of many species of flora and fauna in Indonesia, including Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. We at the Central Kalimantan BKSDA, as an extension of the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry at the provincial level, follow up all reports regarding orangutan welfare through conducting rescues, patrols, and various other activities to help protect conservation areas and forest biodiversity. On November 13-14, we will hold a Central Kalimantan regional meeting, and invite all stakeholders from the government, NGOs, and private sectors. Together, we hope to come up with ideas, initiatives, and breakthroughs for the orangutan conservation effort in Central Kalimantan.”

Ir. Heru Raharjo, M.P., Head of the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (BBBRNP) Office, said; “From 2016, the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park has accommodated 59 rehabilitated orangutans from the BOS Foundation in Nyaru Menteng, and today that number will increase to 71. The more orangutans living free in their natural habitat, the better! To ensure these orangutans continue to thrive in the forest, and are safe from human threats, we conduct regular patrols with the BOS Foundation team. We guarantee there are no poachers, nor irresponsible persons exploiting the natural resources in the area and endangering the lives of orangutans and other animals.

So far, we have received reports that the orangutans are living wild and free, without the threat of poachers. We all hope that the released orangutans will form a new, wild population in this national park and thrive.”

In addition to the BOS Foundation, the Central Kalimantan BKSDA, and the BBBR-NP office, this release has also received strong support from USAID LESTARI, which has pledged active support for the orangutan release program in the BBBR-NP until 2018.

Rosenda Chandra Kasih, USAID LESTARI’s Central Kalimantan Landscape Coordinator confirms that USAID LESTARI is fully supportive of the orangutan release effort conducted by the BOS Foundation, and encourages better management of the BBBR-NP; “With this new batch of 12 orangutans, the BBBR-NP in Katingan will accommodate a total 71 orangutans. This will help raise the area in terms of biodiversity value, as well as support forest conservation in line with our vision and mission. USAID Lestari greatly appreciates the cooperation of all stakeholders in the area, and we fully endorse all efforts to help create a new, wild orangutan population in this national park. We do not want to see this critically endangered species become extinct; it is our collective responsibility to prevent that from happening”.

To ensure the success of its conservation efforts, the BOS Foundation consistently involves and works in cooperation with the government at all levels, including the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Central Kalimantan Provincial Office, the Katingan Regency Office, the Central Kalimantan BKSDA, and the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park office.

The BOS Foundation would like to acknowledge the significant support received from a number of partners, including the Katingan Regency community; individual donors; partner organizations like PT. Cometa International, Zoos Victoria and the Commonwealth of Australia through the Department of Environment and Energy; and conservation organisations from around the world. The BOS Foundation is very grateful for the support and contributions offered by these parties to aid the orangutan conservation effort in Indonesia.

Source: BOS Foundation

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BREAKING: New Species of Orangutan Discovered in Sumatra!

Pongo tapanuliensis is the first new great ape to be discovered since the bonobo in 1929.

Pongo tapanuliensis is the first new great ape to be discovered since the bonobo in 1929.

Researchers have identified a new species of orangutan in an isolated forest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Fewer than 800 individuals remain, and the construction of a dam and road threaten the prime habitat of the ape, which is distinguished from its cousins by, among other things, frizzier hair and a taste for caterpillars.

“As a scientist, I’m thrilled by this discovery,” says Graham Banes, a primatologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison who was not involved in the rare find, described online this week in Current Biology. “As a human, I’m horrified that we might not have enough time to save the species.”

A combination of genetic, anatomical, and ecological data convinced researchers that Pongo tapanuliensis, named for the Tapanuli districts where it is found, is distinct from the two accepted species of orangutan. Conservationists hope the find—the first new species of great ape to be discovered since the bonobo in 1929—will help raise awareness of the plight of orangutans. Both existing species are critically endangered, and the new species immediately surpasses them to become one of the world’s most endangered apes. The discovery “will enable us to get the message out about primate conservation in a major way,” predicts Russell Mittermeier, executive vice-chair of Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia.

Just 15,000 individuals of P. abelii remain in Sumatra. Most of their forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, palm oil plantations, and other development. On Borneo, the population of P. pygmaeus has fallen by 25% over the past 10 years to about 60,000. A recent study estimated that up to 3100 orangutans are killed each year on Borneo alone. This is a high death rate for animals that are extremely slow to reproduce; Sumatran orangutans give birth every 8 to 9 years, less frequently than any other mammal. “Any negative effect will have a long-lasting impact on the population,” says Vincent Nijman, a conservation biologist and anthropologist at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. “That’s why you need to be so careful.”

The Tapanuli population had been lost to science for decades. In 1997, Erik Meijaard, a co-author of the paper and a biologist with Borneo Futures, a conservation group based in Bandar Seri Begawan, led a team that followed up on a 1935 report by a colonial-era zoologist. It mentioned orangutans in the Batang Toru forest, which by the 1990s was believed to be outside the orangutans’ range.

Clues that the Batang Toru population might be a breed apart began to emerge after Gabriella Fredriksson, a conservationist with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) in Medan, Indonesia, helped set up a field station in 2005. One clue came from their unusual diet—not just caterpillars, but also other foods such as conifer cones. And fecal samples yielded mitochondrial DNA that suggested they are more closely related to orangutans on the relatively distant island of Borneo than to those in nearer northern Sumatra. “This was very odd,” says co-author Michael Krützen, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Zurich (UZH) in Switzerland.

Without a skeleton to study, scientists couldn’t tell whether these differences were enough to warrant a separate species. Then, in 2013, villagers killed an adult male orangutan after it invaded a garden. Its skull and jaw differed significantly from those of the two known species on 24 of 39 standard measurements, found coauthor Anton Nurcahyo, a doctoral student at the Australian National University in Canberra. Other differences emerged, too. Photographs of two Tapanuli males and a female showed they had frizzier hair, and sound recordings analyzed by SOCP’s Matthew Nowak revealed calls with more pulses and higher pitches.

A vulnerable home

The Tapanuli orangutans face many threats, including fragmented habitat, gold mining, and a planned dam.

Genomic analysis confirmed the uniqueness of the population. Co-author Maja Mattle-Greminger at UZH and colleagues sequenced the genomes of one captive Tapanuli orangutan and 15 from Sumatra and Borneo. The researchers then combined these data with 20 previously published genomes, including another from Batang Toru, to work out a family tree. Alexander Nater, a co-author then at UZH, and the team concluded that by 3.4 million years ago, orangutans in northern Sumatra had split from those in southern Sumatra and Borneo. (The two islands and mainland Asia have been repeatedly joined and separated by changes in sea level.) Then, about 674,000 years ago, the populations in southern Sumatra and Borneo diverged.

Although orangutans in north and south Sumatra occasionally interbred after the lineages diverged, the Tapanuli orangutans became completely isolated by about 20,000 years ago, and the new genetic analysis shows signs of inbreeding. One factor in the divergence appears to have been cataclysmic eruptions of Mount Toba in Sumatra about 73,000 years ago, which destroyed habitat and likely hindered the dispersal of males. Humans arrived at about the same time, clearing forests and presumably hunting orangutans.

Conservationists say the highest priority is to protect the remaining population, which persists in about 1100 square kilometers of forest. In 2014, the government protected most of the forest from logging. But the best habitat—about 7 square kilometers of low-land forest—is not protected, and villagers sometimes kill orangutans that raid gardens. Gold mining is also driving deforestation.

A planned hydropower dam is the latest threat. The so-called run-of-river design would not store much water behind a dam, but would require digging a long tunnel in an area that holds the densest population of orangutans. An access road would promote deforestation, Fredriksson says, complicating plans to use forest corridors to reconnect the four blocks of orangutan habitat.

In March, the provincial government established the first management authority focused on the Batang Toru ecosystem. Fredriksson says a key task for conservation groups is working with local communities to reduce illegal tree-cutting and hunting. But she warns that, by itself, “the new species of orangutan is not so exciting” to Batang Toru residents. So conservationists will need to find creative ways of enlisting their help, for example by promoting tourism and other benefits of a healthy forest, to keep the world’s newest ape species alive.

Article Source.

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Close Encounters of the Ape Kind

Elisa Do A Lot!

Elisa Do A Lot!

On a sunny Friday, our PRM team from Camp Lesik trailed down Bukit Titin transect to conduct observations on Elisa, a female orangutan released in March this year. Our team that day included Usup, Rere, and Valerie; we headed directly to the location where Elisa’s signal was detected several days prior. After reaching the top of Bukit Titin, we kept on following the strong signal from Elisa, working our way through dense rattan and lianas until we finally spotted her.

Elisa quickly detected our presence and showed her displeasure by letting out a kiss-squeak, then swiftly moved around the branches to get a better look at us. Acknowledging her discomfort, we slowly moved away and continued to observe her from a safe distance.

For a while, Elisa sat in a tree and watched us, but soon became bored and moved off to eat flowers and young leaves. Engrossed in her foraging, she paid no attention to us and just went about her day. This gave us the opportunity to observe Elisa’s activities for quite some time, before she decided to climb up higher and out of sight.

Not wanting to give up easily on observing Elisa, we stood by and waited for signs of movement in the direction she took off in. Then, out of the blue, an orangutan suddenly appeared behind us. Could Elisa have circled around to cleverly sneak up on us from behind? Or was this another orangutan coming to surprise us? Stay tuned, and follow our story next week to find out!

Text by: PRM team in Camp Lesik, Kehje Sewen Forest

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