Meryl Graduates!

Rehabilitation Center: BOS Nyaru Menteng
Date of Arrival: 7 January 2015
Age on Arrival: 8 months
Current Age: 7 years
Current Position: Badak Besar Island
Gender: Female
Health Status: Healthy

January 2022

We have some truly amazing news to share.... Beautiful Meryl has graduated from BOS Nyaru Menteng’s Forest School and moved on to the final stage of rehabilitation! Together with her best friends from Forest School, she is now living on a pre-release island where she will perfect her survival skills before being returned to freedom in the forest. We are so proud of this sweet girl!

We are grateful to all those in the Orangutan Outreach family who have adopted Meryl. She joined our adoption program in 2016 and has had so many supporters over the years! It is thanks to generous supporters like YOU that the BOS Foundation has been able to care for Meryl, and hundreds of other orphaned and displaced orangutans, as they went through their many years in Forest School.

You can see all of Meryl's adoption photos in the updates that we've posted over the past few years... but here are a few of our favorites! Click on the thumbnail to see a full size version.

Meryl's Story

A Tough Start

It all began on January 7, 2015, when a team from BOS Foundation travelled to Tumbang Jiga Village after receiving news of a baby orangutan being kept by local people. The baby was found in very poor condition. She was extremely weak and thin. The owner had placed her in a lanjung, a traditional Dayak bag made of plaited rattan, usually used for carrying crops or firewood. The baby could barely move inside the bag and was unable to move her right arm because it was so swollen.

Dr. Meryl Yemima, one of the lead veterinarians from Nyaru Menteng, gently lifted the baby out of the bag, covered her with a warm blanket, and cradled her. The team successfully confiscated the baby and rushed her back to the clinic facility at Nyaru Menteng for emergency treatment. An initial examination by vet Meryl showed that the baby was only around 8 months old, yet she had spent the last 6 months in captivity. She was named Meryl, after the vet who had lovingly taken care of her.

Early on, Meryl developed a fever, a flu like virus, and malaria. But it was clear this little one was a fighter. With plenty of TLC, Meryl always recovered from illnesses and got right back to her friends. By the spring of 2016, Meryl moved up from the small baby group into the big toddler group at Nursery Forest School. Meryl’s arboreal skills and courage to climb higher trees was quickly apparent.

Forest School Days

It came as no surprise that Meryl steadily progressed to Group I and Group 2 in Forest School. Ever confident, babysitters sometimes caught Meryl sneaking out of Group 2 and wandering toward the Group 5 area. Meryl was quite friendly with Jumbo and a few other older and bigger orangutans from that group. She benefitted greatly from her experiences with them.

By the Spring of 2019, Meryl was in Group 3 of Forest School. She still did some sneaking off to visit old friends from Group 2. Back in her own group, Meryl got to know new friends, and since Group 3’s area is larger and has taller trees, she also had the chance to explore the forest more. Meryl was the sweetest member of Group 3, and absorbed every lesson taught by her surrogate mothers. She also looked up to the more senior orangutans in her group, such as Cinta. Since her abilities were on par with that of her larger peers, the surrogate mothers decided to promote her directly to Group 5 by the Fall of 2019. It was clear nothing could stop Meryl, including a bout with dengue fever. She just kept progressing by leaps and bounds!

By the time Meryl was 6 years old, she had grown into an active and independent individual. She had managed to develop a sound set of survival skill, including foraging and nest-building, at a relatively young age. Oftentimes she showed her independence by staying overnight in the Forest School area for a few nights. This indicated that she was ready for the challenging next step in the rehabilitation process.

Social Time!

Meryl's skill level is what made the surrogate mothers decide to move her to a more advanced stage in the Socialization Complex. She joined several other orangutans from the same age group, together in the complex. While orangutans are semi-solitary creatures, a deciding factor in their personal development throughout rehabilitation is the ability to learn from other orangutans. This means they have to undergo a period of socialization in order to learn new things. We were excited that Meryl made even more progress during this time!

Climbing, swinging, and dangling from the canopy are all skills that Meryl had already mastered. In the Socialization Complex, she displaying a more independent nature, and preferred to keep her distance from the surrogate mothers. This was a good sign of future success in the forest!

By the Spring of 2020, Meryl was enjoying the company of several female friends her age in the socialization complex. She actively played, swung on the rope enrichments, and engaged with honey-filled log enrichments installed in the complex. Meryl showed everyone that she could adapt quickly to new environments and maintain her cheerful demeanor. What a girl!

Among her friends, Meryl might have appeared to be a calm and quiet individual, but she never hesitated to defend her enrichment items or her food if other orangutans try to snatch them away from her! She was a role model for her peers, especially when it came to working on enrichment tools.
Meryl consistently showed her intelligence at every opportunity. By the Fall of 2020, it was evident that her skills were more than capable of taking her to the final stage of rehabilitation: time on a pre-release island.

Meryl’s time in the Socialization Complex showed her continuing to grow and develop, as she waited for her turn on a pre-release island. Meryl's honed skills and sound health indicated that she would adjust well on the pre-release island, and will have no trouble catching up to her friends who have been transferred before her, including Valentine, Cinta, and Jumbo.

Pre-Release Island

On November 10, 2021, Meryl was transferred to Badak Besar Island for the pre-release stage of her rehabilitation. Meryl made the trip with forest school classmates, Sura, Beni, and Winey.

Prior to departure, Meryl underwent a general health exam; Meryl remained calm during the examination process, and was soon ready to get moving! As with other orangutan transfers carried out during the pandemic, the orangutans were transported by river to minimise the possibility of crossing paths with local residents along the way. While the river route involves a longer travel time, it is the safer option in terms of preventing the spread of disease.

The overall trip to Badak Besar Island took more than four hours. Meryl was in good spirits throughout the journey, despite being confined to a transportation crate. She spent the journey eating heartily and relaxing. Every now and then, she peeked out between the bars of her crate door while munching on fruit.

At around 12 noon, the transport cages were unloaded one by one on Badak Besar Island’s feeding platform, which was used as the location to open the cages that day. After releasing Beni and Winey from their respective transport crates, it was Meryl's turn. Her cage was opened by May Sumarnae, the Coordinator of the BOSF Animal Welfare team at Nyaru Menteng. Meryl was not at all bothered by the presence of technicians and veterinarians around her. As soon as she came out of the crate, she immediately took the bananas available on the feeding platform and ate them on the spot.

Shortly after Meryl left the cage, her friends Cinta and Valentino approached her, and the three climbed up the same tree. Valentino seemed to want to get closer to Meryl, which is a good sign for these young orangutans.

Newly-released orangutans on the island typically prefer to hang around the spot where their cage was opened. However, in the afternoon, when the observation team returned to visit the island, they could not see Meryl around the feeding platform. The next morning, the team spotted her in the canopy exploring. She looked very free and agile moving through the trees.

Meryl has shown a great ability to adjust to her new island environment from day one. What an impressive start, Meryl!

A Fabulous Future

Meryl’s future is bright! We will bring you another update to let you know how she is progressing on the island. She will likely remain on the pre-release island for at least a year. We will definitely bring you the news when Meryl completes her journey by being released to a life of true freedom in the forest!

Thank you again for your years of love and support for Meryl!