BOS Foundation: November 2020 Update from the Rehabilitation Centers

Text by: BOS Foundation Communication Team & Orangutan Outreach

November 12, 2020 — It has been eight months since the BOS Foundation closed its rehabilitation centers to visitors, volunteers, and researchers to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Throughout this uncertain time, they have remained fully committed to providing high quality care for the orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng and Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Centers.

Utilizing the ‘One Health’ approach, the staff at both BOS Foundation rehabilitation centers have adhered to stringent health protocols and worked on an adjusted schedule, which includes being assigned to restricted work areas with alternating staff rotations. The ‘One Health’ approach requires humans – in this case, our staff members – to maintain their health in order to keep the orangutans in their care healthy.

Similarly strict protocols have also been applied to our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) teams that work deep in our three release forests in Central and East Kalimantan.

In addition to these COVID-19 prevention measures, the BOS Foundation has also conducted rapid testing for all employees in their rehabilitation centers. The tests were made available thanks to assistance from the Indonesian government, in collaboration with local health clinics. Every BOS Foundation employee, both in Central and East Kalimantan, has undergone several rapid tests over the past few months.

BOS Foundation staff member wearing PPE

Undergoing a rapid test

Thanks to these strict protocols, all BOS Foundation staff at their two rehabilitation centers, as well as the orangutans, have remained in good health and kept safe from COVID-19 transmission.

Not only has there been a focus on BOS Foundation employees: they have also strived to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our project villages. The BOS Foundation has distributed sanitation equipment and provided educational materials for villages through our community empowerment team, so that local residents in and around their working areas can also stay healthy.

Enrichment team

To keep the orangutans, both inside and outside the centers safe as well, in March the BOS Foundation temporarily suspended all release and rescue activities. We knew, however, that it was only a matter of time before there would be an orangutan in desperate need of help, so preparations were made. Emergency rescue protocols were drawn up and a special COVID-19 quarantine area was created so that if the situation required BOS to take in a new orangutan, they could ensure they would not put the resident orangutans or staff at risk.

It was about 5 weeks after the lockdown of the centers that BOS got the first call from the Central Kalimantan Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) requesting their help to rescue an orangutan from a human settlement who was in danger. BOS immediately dispatched a special, minimized team in full hazmat suits to help the orangutan. They worked neatly and efficiently, which paid off with the safe rescue of the orangutan and no COVID-19 infections for the involved staff.

Over the course of the year, BOS has rescued a total of 12 orangutans, and since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Indonesia, they have cautiously welcomed two orangutans to to Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. Both these orangutans were handed over to BOS only after first being housed at the BKSDA centre in Palangka Raya. The first was a female who was given the name Jeni. She was in desperate need of veterinary attention. The second was an infant boy named Alexander, who desperately needed a surrogate mother to raise him in the absence of his own. Despite not coming from captivity in a human home, both still underwent special COVID-19 quarantine at the Nyaru Menteng before being integrated with the rest of the orangutan population in the infant nursery.

These necessary adjustments to standard operating procedures have had a negative impact in other work areas, including fundraising efforts across the board. Applying these restrictions on activities and imposing stricter protocols means BOS has not been able to carry out their regular face-to-face fundraising local that, in normal circumstances, they would do at a number of public events. Nor have they been able to make school visits to deliver their education program. Now, everything must be done virtually, online.

BOS has launched direct online campaigns more frequently than ever before, and has made additional efforts to provide online education – because, orangutan and habitat conservation doesn’t just stop when the rest of the world has slowed down. In total, the BOS Foundation has held more than five online fundraising campaigns: for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), the purchasing of fruit to feed orangutans, and to support the costs of health tests.

Despite the challenges, a solution has never been out of reach. We know that our collaborative efforts are our strength. Being healthy and strong together means we can keep working to conserve orangutans and their habitat!

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