Jumbo: Fall 2021
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Rehabilitation Center: Nyaru Menteng
Date of Arrival : 16 February 2013
Age on Arrival: 1 year
Current Age: 9 years
Current Position: Salat Pre-Release Island
Health Status: Healthy
Summer Flashback: Jumbo's big move!
Jumbo was placed in an individual enclosure for a month at the Nyaru Menteng 2 Complex, alongside several other orangutans who were scheduled to be transported to Badak Besar Island for the pre-release stage of rehabilitation. In a smaller enclosure than he was previously accustomed to, Jumbo seemed reserved: There were no playmates or easy targets for his cheekiness, the way it used to be in the socialization complex. Instead, Jumbo became increasingly aggressive towards technicians, and postured every time a technician approached.
This dominant trait was also on display when the orangutan transfer team arrived to anesthetize Jumbo and conduct a general health examination on 6 April. We believe that Jumbo was startled by the sight of our team members dressed head to toe in PPE, which made them unrecognizable. Jumbo loudly kiss-squeaked and looked agitated at the sight of our technicians in PPE. It took more than three technicians to distract Jumbo, in order for the vet to safely sedate him and perform the examination. Luckily for us, the process went smoothly.
The next morning was a significant moment for Jumbo: After 7-years of the rehabilitation process, it was finally time for him to move on to the pre-release stage with three of our more skilled orangutans, Hanin, Cinta, and Valentino. This moment was precious not only for Jumbo, but also for the surrogate mothers who had cared for and taught Jumbo since he was a baby.
The orangutan transfer to the island was highly anticipated, after a year of halted activity due to the global pandemic. Under strict health protocols, we continued to do our best to keep both the orangutans and our staff safe and in good health. Therefore, everybody involved in the event had to pass an antigen swab test, to ensure they were free of COVID-19. Additionally, we travelled by river to Badak Besar Island, to avoid unnecessary contact with local residents, as is usually the case when traveling over land.
After a 4-hour journey, the group finally arrived at the location planned for the cage-opening, on Badak Besar Island. As per our expectations, Jumbo rushed out of his transport cage the second it was opened and headed to the feeding platform in front of him to grab some fruit. Out of the fruits available, he selected some bananas — his favorite! — and carried them up a tree to enjoy in peace. He completely ignored his human observers below.
Thankfully, the transfer of Jumbo and other orangutans to Badak Besar Island went according to plan. The transfer team immediately left the site so that the observation team could take over to collect behavioral data on Jumbo and the other new arrivals. This data collection is important for assessing how an orangutan adjusts to their new environment and if they are utilizing the survival skills taught to them in Forest School. Conditions on the pre-release islands present real challenges that are much more complex and natural from those found in Forest School. On a pre-release island, orangutans must live independently and prove that they can survive no matter the season or circumstance.
Jumbo made it through his first week on Badak Besar Island with no issues. He actively explored, foraged for natural foods, and occasionally interacted with Hanin. He almost looked like a true, wild male orangutan, except for one thing; Jumbo wasn't showing the same level of dominant behaviour he had shown in the complex. We are certain that once he has fully adjusted to his new surroundings, his old personality will start to shine through! What an amazing start, Jumbo!
Jumbo is now in his fourth month of living on Badak Besar Pre-Release Island, located in the Salat Island Cluster. Overall, Jumbo has quickly adjusted to his new environment. In April, during his first month on the island, Jumbo was already showing signs of good progress, according to the behavioral data collected by our observations team. A very good start indeed!
In addition to actively exploring the island, Jumbo is also good at foraging for various types of natural food. However, as with other orangutans just starting the pre-release stage of rehabilitation, Jumbo still relies on the additional food distributed by technicians at the feeding platform twice daily. He is not among those who grab their food early; he prefers instead to wait for the technicians to finish unloading the food and leave the platform area before climbing down from the trees to collect some fruit. Sometimes, he devours the fruit right there on the feeding platform, and other times he climbs up into the trees to find a good place to eat his fruit in peace.
Some time ago, our team started having trouble observing Jumbo because he was rarely appearing around the feeding platform. However, the team was still able to occasionally observe him when he was not far from the riverbank. Then, our team wasn’t able to locate Jumbo at all for more than three days— usually a good sign that Jumbo is exploring the interior of the island!
At the same time, there were two other orangutans who also disappeared from the team's observation data: Suci and Dius. The team went in search of the missing orangutans at the nearest village, worried that one or more of these three orangutans had managed to cross the waterway and escape the island. The team managed to find Dius and Suci, who were immediately rescued and returned to the island, but Jumbo was nowhere to be seen.
Given that Jumbo was a newcomer to the island, the team decided to intensify the search, despite having limited team members. Fortunately, after a few days of searching, the team managed to spot Jumbo perched in the top of a tree on Badak Besar Island. He had never left the island; he was just enjoying life as an almost-wild orangutan away from humans! We were super happy to see him!
Orangutans can sometimes escape the pre-release islands if the water in the canals that contain the islands recedes. Water levels in the canals decrease as the number of rainy days fall and, in the month of June, there were only 10 days of rain! These conditions force our teams to conduct more regular patrols and clear vegetation, to ensure there are no fallen trees or logs that can create pathways for orangutans to cross the canals.
We are extremely happy that Jumbo reappeared in good health, which shows that he is already able to survive in the wild without human intervention. We will continue to keep an eye on him and other orangutans to avoid the possibility of future escapes from the island, but we are also thrilled by how independent he already has become. Based on his progress and in order to ensure that he continues to grow weary of humans, our teams will be minimizing their contact with Jumbo, which means this will be the last time the communications team will be able to follow him for an update!
Jumbo’s story is not yet over, and we will always be grateful for the support you gave him – so you can expect to still see major updates on his life, like when he is released back into the true wilderness! For the time being, we are putting his behavioral development first and letting him try to make it on Badak Besar Island as a wild orangutan. Thank you for joining his journey, we couldn’t have done it without you!