Argitoe Rantang (at left), IAR's Rescue, Rehabilitation & Release Coordinator... getting the job done.
Rescuing orangutans is a difficult and challenging process, whatever the situation, and unless the orangutan is in a desperate situation or being kept as a pet, rescuing is always a last resort, and only carried out if every other option to keep the orangutan in the wild has been explored.
It is important to stress that IAR does not have the legal authority to carry out rescues in Indonesia, and all their rescues are conducted in collaboration with the local nature conservation agency of the forestry department, known as the BKSDA. It is only because of our good relationship with this, and other, government departments that IAR is able to carry out its conservation work.
IAR is usually alerted to the presence of an orangutan in need of rescue by the BKSDA, by people contacting them directly or contacting local IAR staff members who live in their local area, by their Human Orangutan Conflict Response Team, or by one of the Community Prevention Units they have established in areas where they know orangutans are at risk.
Immediately upon being alerted to an orangutan in need of rescue, the team sets out to investigate, either rescuing the orangutan immediately, or assessing the situation to determine how many members of staff are needed. Each rescue team comprises enough field staff to carry the equipment and the orangutan once he or she has been rescued, one or two vets, and, if necessary, a member of their Human Orangutan Conflict Response Team, to help in the case of any resistance or community issues during the rescue. All rescues are attended by a member of the BKSDA.
Whether the rescue is a young baby kept as a pet or a wild orangutan in need of being darted and caught from a tree, the team always does a health assessment in the field, and takes details of the location of the rescue, details of the orangutan and the context of the rescue. Orangutans who are anesthetized during the rescue have a microchip inserted into the back of the neck, so they can be easily identified in the future. If this doesn’t happen in the field, it will be done at the clinic.
If the team is rescuing a wild orangutan and it is believed that the orangutan can be directly translocated to another area of forest immediately, without having to be brought back to the center, the rescue will only be carried out once permission has been granted from the relevant management authority of the desired release site. Once the orangutan has been captured, the translocation will only be given the green light once a health check has been carried out, and IAR's vets are satisfied that the orangutan is in good health and strong enough to survive in the wild.
The sad truth is that rescues are ongoing and never-ending. And during fire season, the number only goes up as orangutan flee the fires in their forest home....
Anatomy of a Rescue
In 2013 the IAR rescue team got an urgent call that some orangutans had been seen wandering around a "forest" that had just been destroyed by a palm oil company. The team was in absolute shock at what they found...
Photos © Alejo Sabugo / IAR Indonesia