3 Orangutans rescued from Indonesian forest fires released back into wild

Reuters 1 Jul 16;

Three orangutans rescued when forest fires destroyed their Indonesian rainforest habitats were returned to the wild on Borneo island last week.

Karmele Llano Sanche, International Animal Rescue program director in Indonesia, made a three-day journey by car, boat and through the forest to release the animals in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park.

"You know, it's amazing to see a big orangutan like that moving across the forest, this is home, home, back home," Sanche said.

Sabtu, 25, was saved in March 2015 from a village near the IAR sanctuary in Ketapang, West Kalimantan province, one of the areas most affected by the fires last year.

Butan and Marsela, both around seven and eight years old, were also rescued by IAR when their home was destroyed by fires.

Deforestation and land clearing for pulp paper and palm oil plantations has depleted the habitat of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. Fires are often set by companies to clear the land.

Orangutans, which means "person of the forest" in Malay, are endangered animals. There are only about 60,000 left in the wild, down from around 230,000 a century ago.

(Reporting by Reuters Television, Editing by Karishma Singh)

3 orangutans returned to natural habitat in W. Kalimantan
Severianus Endi The Jakarta Post 3 Jul 16;

An orangutan rehabilitation center in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, has released three orangutans into their natural habitat at the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park, which is part of the Heart of Borneo, a conservation area located on the border of West and Central Kalimantan.

Conservation group Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia (YIARI) program director Karmele Llano Sanchez said she could not imagine that there would still be a bright future for orangutan populations in Indonesia if their natural habitat continued to disappear at a rapid pace.

“Orangutans are threatened with forest clearing, land burning, wildlife hunting and the illegal pet trade. Only if people are more concerned about orangutans, will they be safe, although it’s a bit too late now,” said Karmele.

The YIARI release orangutans into their natural habitats in stages. On June 28, Sabtu, an adult orangutan aged around 25 years, was released into its indigenous habitat. Sabtu was rescued from a plantation belonging to local people in Ketapang regency, in March. It was thought the orangutan fled to the human settlement following the burning in its habitat. On June 29, YIARI released two orangutans, namely Butan and Marsela, it had been rehabilitating since 2011 and 2012 respectively. The orangutans were rescued when they were around 2-3 years old. They were pushed out by the massive expansion of oil palm plantations in Ketapang.

“In their habitat, baby orangutans live with their mothers from when they are born until they are around 7-8 years old. If a baby orangutan is found alone, rest assured his or her mother has died,” YIARI program manager Gail Campbell-Smith said.

After the release, a YIARI monitoring team, supported by local people from villages near the national park, will still follow the orangutans using a radio-tracking facility for one or two years. They will record the orangutans’ activities and behavior, making sure that they can survive.

The YIARI is currently rehabilitating 100 orangutans and it is feared the number will continue to increase along with rapid habitat losses caused by ongoing forest clearing for plantation expansion. (ebf)

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