An AOP & Raw Wildlife Partnership

Orangutan Long-Term Accommodation

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The vast majority of orangutans received at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) quarantine centre are fit and healthy and can be transferred to one of the two reintroduction centres for the species in Jambi and now in Jantho (Aceh). However, on occasions we receive orangutans with serious medical concerns or disabilities (injuries) that prevent them from being returned to the wild.

The PanEco RAW Island fundraising partnership between TOP and Raw Wildlife Encounters has been established to raise funds necessary for SOCP to purchase land, develop suitable orangutan long-term housing facilities, employ staff, and cover operational costs for at least the first year. Currently it is impossible to predict how much needs to be raised. Land prices vary tremendously in the region but are predicted to be higher in areas where there is already tourism and higher still where there is a regular, clean water supply.

In 2007, with funding from The Orangutan Project, we built 4 medium sized cages (each approx. 6m long X 4 m high X 3m wide) to improve the welfare of some such orangutans that had previously been housed in the smaller cages in the quarantine isolation area of the site. Nevertheless, given that orangutans live for a long time and regularly reach over 50 years in the wild, we must quickly begin looking for more acceptable longer term solution for housing such animals, to maximize their welfare.

The solution

It is highly unlikely that any of the first 4 orangutans described above will ever be released into the wild, and it remains a possibility for the 5th too, Seumayam.

Whilst the cages they are currently in are adequate, in that they allow them plenty of room for exercise and a clean and healthy environment, it is highly desirable that we find a longer term solution for these individuals, and any other handicapped or potentially contagious we may receive in the future.

An ideal solution would be to find some land, a minimum of 3 or 4 hectares but ideally more, with a clean water supply, on which to construct a number of small enclosures. Ideally, these could be “island” style, if there is a good enough and clean enough water supply on the site, such as a large stream or river that can be routed through new canals to form moats. Alternatively, “island-type” enclosures could be created using an excavator to create “ha-ha” walls.

It would be hoped that the site would be big enough to accommodate at least 6 such enclosures but more would be better, or at least the possibility to add more later. A minimum requirement of 3 hectares would be desirable, but more would of course enhance the long term potential.

It is envisaged that these orangutans can also still play an important role in the conservation of the species. Paying visitors would be allowed at the site and education displays and guided tours would explain the reasons why these orangutans are there. They would explain the problems of habitat loss and orangutan human conflicts and how both result in young orangutans being captured and kept as pets. As an example, dramatic photos of x-rays taken of orangutans such as Leuser, with 48 air rifle pellets still in his body, will reinforce the reality and the brutality of the capture process. Tila’s hepatitis will be used to explain how humans and orangutans can transfer diseases from one to the other. The centre will also serve as an example of how the care of these animals is a long-term commitment, but also the responsibility of us all, and an expensive one too.

It is hoped that revenues and donations from visitors will help contribute to the operational costs of the centre and minimize the amount of funds that must be sought from elsewhere, although this cannot be guaranteed. To maximize the potential for this, however, it would make sense to locate the new centre in a location that is not too far from somewhere that already attractys a reasonable number of visitors or tourists. Potential areas would therefore seem to be in the regions of Bukit Lawang (former orangutan rehabilitation centre and major tourist destination), Tangkahan (tourism for wildlife treks and elephant rides), Sibolangit or Berastagi (many tourists and now a theme park, and soon to be SOCP’s own nature education centre at the former botanic gardens at TWA Sibolangit . Other options might include Marike and Aras Napal, both locations were other NGO’s are considering developing new ecotourism projects.

To do

Suitable land has not yet been identified for the new centre. As stated, it would ideally have a regular, clean water supply, in case the orangutans drink water from moats etc.. Clean water is not so easy to find in the region, however, (except in the forest itself) so some form of water treatment (e.g. biofiltration) may be needed to clean water entering the site.

Funding must also be raised, not just to purchase the land but also to develop the enclosures and other necessary facilities and staff, and to cover the operational costs of the centre for at least the first year. It is impossible at the present time to predict how much will need to be raised. Land prices vary tremendously in the region and are predicted to be high in areas where there is already some tourism, and higher still if there is a regular clean water supply. The next step is to begin looking for a suitable location and to try to collate this kind of information.

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