Past & Present
In 1997, a need for a rescue centre in the Palangka Raya area of Central Kalimantan was identified. With funding from the Gibbon Foundation, a new centre with new methods of quarantine and care intended to be an improvement over currently operating centres in Kalimantan was built. The facility was built under an agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, and Nyaru Menteng officially opened its doors to the first dozen orangutans in 1999. The facility was designed to hold up to 100 orphaned orangutans whilst they go through the process of rehabilitation. In addition to quarantine cages, medical clinic, and nursery, the project had a vast expanse of forest area – or Forest Schools – in which orangutans could learn the skills needed to live in the wild. Since 1999, the project has grown immensely, and now looks after over 600 orangutans. Nyaru Menteng is the largest ape rescue operation in the world.
BOS rescue teams work tirelessly in hazardous and difficult conditions, and have in the past 3 and a half years rescued over 350 wild orangutans from the palm oil plantations. They are the only organisation in Indonesia actively rescuing wild orangutans from oil palm plantations. They also continue to confiscate pet orangutans, and 90% of the infants under 3 years of age currently in the care of BOS Foundation have been rescued from areas of palm oil development.
BOS Foundation works closely with the Ministry of Forestry to ensure rescues and operations are performed in accordance with Indonesian law. But it doesn’t end with the rescue. The team will do what they can to educate the locals from wherever the orangutan is rescued to ensure it doesn’t happen again and if they know of other orangutans been kept as pets or in danger, they are to contact the Foundation who will do what they can to help get traumatised or injured individuals away from harm to safety.
Babies newborn to 6 months of age go to the Nursery. Adjacent is a small forest with trees and climbing frames. Looked after in small groups by babysitters, local women employed to provide the love and care for them, these orphans are given the confidence to explore and learn. At night, the babies sleep indoors in laundry baskets with pillows and blankets, or directly on the bodies of the babysitters who sleep with them at night.
From there, they go to Forest School One, a large forest (and larger orangutans up to 3 years of age). They are divided into small groups based on age and personality. They spend all day in this forest, where the real learning begins. They learn from each other and from the babysitters how to find termites and honey and to get at them, to be afraid of snakes and avoid them, which plants can be eaten, and how to build a nest.
Forest School Two next, which is in 2 locations. Here the forests are more mature and have bigger trees which can better withstand the orangutans, and they are cared for by Technicians, local men employed to look after them. They become more independent and most chose to sleep out in the forest at night in nests, though they are permitted to return to night quarters if they so wish. Again, these orangutans are in the forest all day long. They will stay in Forest School Two until they are about 6 years old.
Then it is time for Orangutan University. The orangutans are moved to lush river islands, acquired in order to refine their skills. This penultimate training ground provides and opportunity for the orangutans to go it alone, but with daily food provisioning and intervention if an orangutan becomes ill or injured. The islands are patrolled 24 hours a day by security as well as technicians. Orangutans will spend at least 2 dry seasons and one wet season on the island, under close observation, so it can be assessed if they are ready to be returned to the wild.
And Release Back to the Wild
In 2012, BOS Foundation released a record number of semi-wild and rehabilitated Orangutans back to safe, protected rainforest. It has been a difficult and challenging operation. Suitable release areas are hard to find – but BOS Foundation have risen to the challenge and in turn, Orangutan Protection Foundation has expanded its mission to include projects like Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia. It is both unethical and illegal to introduce rehabilitant orangutans to areas with a viable resident population of wild orangutans, although this has been done by other organisations for decades. A remote area in the north of the region was found in 2010, suitable for the release of 1100 orangutans, both wild and rehabilitant (separated by natural boundaries). This has now been approved by every level of the government and the successful release of over 50 Orangutans undertaken.
Orangutans that come to us too big to go into Forest School go into large socialization enclosures, and as islands become available are released there for training. One island in particular is for these special needs orangutans adult orangutans who have spent their entire lives (or nearly) in a cage, and so have had no training about how to look for food, build nests or climb.
Wild juvenile and adult orangutans are translocated to safe forest areas as quickly as possible after undergoing a complete health screening and receiving any necessary treatment. We have relocated and released over 115 wild orangutans so far, south of the Mawas Reserve (a 1 million hectare forest managed by BOS Indonesia). However, this forest is now at capacity, and a number of wild orangutans are waiting for the release site in the North to become official before we can translocate them there.