Indonesia: Orangutans rebound after forest fires

Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 3 May 16;

An orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang regency, West Kalimantan, has succeeded in evacuating and rehabilitating over 160 orangutans, 50 of which have been released back into national parks.

The latest success by Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia ( YIARI ) on Monday saw four orangutans released at the Bukit Baka Bukut Raya National Park on the border of West and Central Kalimantan.

Covering an area of 1,810 square kilometers in the heart of Kalimantan, the park is the habitat of 817 endemic flora and fauna including orangutan and honey bears ( Helarctos malayanus euryspilus ).

The four primates had undergone a rehabilitation program at YIARI’s shelter for several months. They were all victims of a forest fire that occurred at the end of 2015, where they were rescued at the beginning of 2016.

“The four were all still wild but they only needed two to three months at the rehabilitation center,” YIARI’s program director Karmele Liano S├ínchez told The Jakarta Post.

The shelter began operations in November 2009 on a plot of almost 60 hectares. Currently, the facility has 25 animal nurses and is equipped with 15 cages, a clinic and an orangutan school.

Apart from YIARI’s shelter, another orangutan rehabilitation facility has also been operating in Sintang, West Kalimantan, managed by Yayasan Kobus.

Every orangutan evacuated by the West Kalimantan Natural Resource Conservation Agency ( BKSDA ) is rehabilitated at either of the shelters depending on the distance from where the orangutan was rescued.

This year alone the agency has evacuated 12 orangutans. Three of which were sent to the Sintang shelter and the rest were sent to YIARI.

Head of the agency’s forest ranger unit, Azmardi, said the time needed to rehabilitate the orangutans depended on how long the animals had been under human care. As they need adequate treatment to get them prepared for the life back in the wild.

“If [an orangutan] still has wild characteristics when rescued, a lengthy rehabilitation program is not necessary,” said Azmardi.

He added that in 2015, his organization rescued 49 orangutans. Of them, seven were rehabilitated at Sintang, 34 were treated at YIARI shelter and the remaining eight were promptly released to their natural habitat.

Investigations and data collection on the ownership of protected animals have been conducted by the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program ( GPOCP ) in Ketapang regency. They do so by visiting and monitoring villages, especially those located close to forests as well as mining sites and plantation concession areas.

GPOCP’s animal protection manager Edi Rahman said that 2015 investigations and monitoring activities revealed 13 orangutans were being kept by residents in Ketapang and Kayong Utara. Rescue measures have been conducted in cooperation with local authorities, as nine of the orangutans were evacuated in March.

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