Gracia and the Kids: Fall 2021

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December 2021 Update!

Gracia and several members of her family were recently spotted and we've got some footage of them in the canopy!

Four of the ‘G-family’ were captured on film alongside the BNF research camp: Gracia, her five-year-old son Gara, Gracia's grown-up daughter, Georgia, and Georgia's infant son Gus. All appear to be in excellent health and were found feasting on some fruit in the trees bordering camp. In this video, Gracia, Georgia and Gara are all eating and playing in the same tree – a rare sight, even for family! Gara has become increasingly active, swinging from branch to branch while mother Gracia looks on. Georgia can be seen further down, to the left of Gara, and Gracia lower in the tree with her back to the action.

Only one member of the G family, Gretel, did not join the gathering, but this is not necessarily a bad thing! As mentioned in our previous update, Gretel is now an adolescent female orangutan venturing out on her own. In this instance, no news is likely to be good news and reaffirms Gretel's independence.

Whilst Gracia and family seem to be doing well, Bornean orangutans are Critically Endangered. Even in the protected Sebangau National Park, wildfires are an ever-present threat and must be mitigated through intensive patrolling, reforestation and canal-blocking efforts. Canal blocking prevents peat-drainage and desiccation, which leaves the forest vulnerable to fires during the dry season. However, we are delighted to report that, with the coming of the rainy season, there have been no fires in the Sebangau National Park for the second year running. While aided by relatively wet conditions through this year’s dry season, this is also testament to the tireless efforts of local, BNF-supported community patrol and firefighting teams who work to protect their ancestral forest for biodiversity, health and livelihoods.

They grow up so fast... (Sept 2021)

Over the last 20 years, our partner the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) has built up one of the longest running orangutan behavior projects in the world, collecting thousands of hours of data on orangutan activity patterns, diet, ranging and physiological condition. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, BNF had no choice but to suspend primate follows in order to protect the apes from any risk of COVID-19 transmission, meaning they haven’t been able to collect data since March 2020. Although disappointing for their ongoing research, we all want to do everything we can to safeguard the orangutans we know and love. However, as the teams continue to carry out other vital research and conservation work in the Sebangau National Park, they occasionally cross paths with our orange friends, including Gracia and the rest of her family.

Over the last couple of months, Gracia and her son Gara, and Georgia (Gracia's older daughter) and son Gus have been encountered in the forest. All are healthy and are most often found eating, something orangutans do a lot of! Orangutans eat up to 500 different kinds of food, but fruit comprises 60% of their diet. Durians are among their favorites, apparently unbothered by the fruit's pungent smell which has been compared to open drains garbage pits!

The G-family have been sighted within their normal ranges, a reassuring sign that all is well in their world. The first monsoon rains fell earlier this month (Sept, 2021), heralding the end of another fire season. We are delighted to report that this marks another fire-free year for the Sebangau National Park, thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of our patrol teams and BNF’s peat re-wetting and reforestation activities. Our ‘One Million Trees’ campaign is going from strength to strength, with 50,000 trees already planted and 100,000 more scheduled for October/November this year! This is facilitating the regeneration of crucial orangutan habitat, making way for new individuals in the years to come.

In June, BNF hosted their fifth "Rainforest: Live" event. Rainforest: Live is a day of social media activity, designed to showcase Borneo's unique and threatened wildlife through a series of jungle encounters, broadcasted live around the world. It is not always possible to bring people to the forest, so we brought the forest to you! During the first few hours of Rainforest: Live, the teams bumped into Georgia and her infant Gus. Georgia put on a real show for the cameras, swinging deftly from the canopy, and Gus even ventured from his mother’s arms out onto a branch! Now two and half years old, Gus is at a pivotal age and will soon be able to travel moderate distances without Georgia’s help.

Gara, too, is a growing boy and has been experimenting with a wider variety of ‘adult’ foods eaten by his mother Gracia. Young orangutans are breastfed until seven years of age, longer than any other primate! Between 12-18 months, orangutans consume only breastmilk, after which they incorporate other foodstuffs into their diet. However, during times of food shortage, orangutans can be nursed until puberty. Gara is five this year, so we are glad to see him meet these developmental milestones on the road to becoming a mature, powerful male orangutan.

Gretel is the only family member that has not been seen in some time; however, this is a promising development! At 11-12 years old, Gretel is fully independent of her mother Gracia and will want to establish her own space-- though she may stop by for the odd play session!

Despite the positive state of orangutans within the Sebangau National Park, Bornean orangutans are Critically Endangered. Many individuals are not so fortunate to live within the confines of a protected area, their forests instead designated for conversion to agriculture or logging. In light of these threats, World Orangutan Day (WOD) 2021 took place on the 19th August. BNF held numerous events to commemorate WOD, with the dual aim of raising awareness and garnering support for key conservation initiatives. These actions help safeguard wild orangutans like the G-family, securing a future for Borneo’s magnificent red apes.... Thanks so much for supporting BNF's work by adopting Gracia & the kids....