Orang-utans reintroduced into Kalimantan forest

Four orang-utans have been released into Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest as part of a strategy that will see an additional 36 returned to the wild this year.

In accordance with the goals set in the Indonesia Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 20072017, proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in 2007, all orang-utans in rehabilitation centres are to be returned to the wild by 2015. This reintroduction by the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation is the first of several vital releases scheduled for this year.

Almost a decade in the planning, today’s reintroduction had been delayed due to the decreased amount of secure and ecologically suitable forest into which the primates could be released and have a realistic chance of survival.

A partnership between the Ministry of Forestry Republic of Indonesia, the Government of Central Kalimantan Province, the Government of the Murung Raya Regency, Conservation and Natural Resources Authority of Central Kalimantan and a small group of NGOs including Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has enabled this reintroduction to go ahead under suitable conditions.

Released into a secure, protected forest conservation area in the Murung Raya district of Central Kalimantan, the animals were accompanied by their carers from BOS Foundation’s Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Nyaru Menteng. The four Bornean orang-utans travelled in groups of two, each with their own veterinary medical team, by road then aeroplane from Tjilik Riwut airport, Palangka Raya to Puruk Cahu. The final step saw the animals transported by helicopter to Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest, Murung Raya.

Godwin Limberg, FFI’s Programme Manager for the Murung Raya Conservation and Sustainable Development Project was lucky enough to witness the release, reporting from the scene: “The animals were waved off by a small gathering of government and local dignitaries. It was very emotional, but smiles were broad as everyone watched this epic journey come to a satisfying and rewarding end.”

To BOS Foundation and its partners, the end of today is merely the beginning of tomorrow, with release operations continuing into the foreseeable future. The organisation and its partners plan to release 12 more orang-utans in several weeks time. Meanwhile, work to secure additional suitable habitat for reintroductions (through the allocation of forest to ecosystem restoration concessions) is continuing.

With more than 600 individual orang-utans at BOS Foundation’s Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Nyaru Menteng waiting to be released back to their natural habitat, the road ahead is a long one.

Godwin concludes, “The positive results seen from this partnership today provide encouraging news for orang-utan conservation. The demonstration of commitment from the Government of Murung Raya Regency to work towards balancing regional development and conservation is an excellent sign, and one that bodes well for the future of this species.”