Orangutan Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Reintroduction

A major focus of the SOCP is its specialist Orangutan Quarantine Centre near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

The SOCP rescues and relocates wild orangutans that have become isolated in areas being converted to non-forest areas, such as oil palm plantations and other developments. Such drastic rescue interventions are always a last resort since it is usually a difficult, risky and stressful operation for all involved, which are only undertaken if the orangutans will surely die if otherwise left where they are. Sadly, such rescues are becoming increasingly necessary as forest patches become ever smaller and more isolated.

Furthermore, the SOCP also confiscate orangutans that have been take into the illegal pet trade. Together with the Indonesian Government’s Conservation Authorities, we locate and confiscate illegally held orangutans and assist in prosecuting actors involved in the trade of orangutans and other protected species.

If healthy, rescued individuals are relocated to safer habitat, at one of two Reintroduction Stations across Sumatra – at Jantho or Jambi. If sick or injured, they are treated first at the SOCP Orangutan Quarantine and Rehabilitation Centre, to receive the necessary care to begin the road to recovery back to the wild.

Facilities at the centre include a fully equipped medical clinic, 20 quarantine isolation cages, an infant house for very young orangutans, three large socialization cages housing orangutans that have successfully passed their quarantine period and are preparing for release, and six long-term cages for those that for reasons of health or disability, cannot be released to the wild.

Unless emergency veterinary intervention is required, we first observe each orangutan very closely to assess general health condition and take fecal and other non-invasive samples to check for parasites and other ailments. This initial “settling-in” period allows the orangutans to become familiar with and comfortable in their new environment with minimal stress. Very young infants still needing milk from a bottle are initially taken care of 24-hours a day by dedicated caretakers.

Once they are settled, we perform general health checks, which include:

  • Chest x-rays to check for Tuberculosis and other bronchial problems;
  • Blood samples to test for Hepatitis A, B, and C, Herpes simplex virus, and routine blood tests;
  • PPD (Purified Protein Derivative) tests, a routine under-the-skin injection to test for tuberculosis;
  • A full body check to ensure no injuries or air rifle pellets are present;
  • Weights, measures, and a full dental examination.

Once fit and healthy, orangutans are gradually introduced to others of a similar age. This stage in the SOCP process is a very rewarding one. Often, this is the first-time rescued orangutans see a conspecific since their capture from the wild and the death of their mother. Often, they seem to gain a new sparkle in their eyes and renewed enthusiasm for life.

Once fit and healthy, orangutans are gradually introduced to others of a similar age. This stage in the SOCP process is a very rewarding one. Often, this is the first-time rescued orangutans see a conspecific since their capture from the wild and the death of their mother. Often, they seem to gain a new sparkle in their eyes and renewed enthusiasm for life.

This socialization period allows orangutans to learn to interact with each other, learning species typical behaviors once again, after having only known humans for the duration of their time in captivity. Introductions are done slowly and are closely monitored by quarantine staff, ensuring that no potentially dangerous behaviors are taking place.

Additionally, orangutan groups are provided with daily enrichment and spend time in the trees in one of our three on-site forest school areas, all of which aims to encourage wild behaviors, such as nest-building and foraging. Each orangutan is closely monitored daily, and once they reach age 5-6, our team begins to decide who is ready for reintroduction. This decision is made on several factors, including health and agility level, as well as the number of natural behaviors that are displayed.

Since, its inception in 1999, the SOCP has rescued over 500 orangutans, and reintroduced over 180 since 2003 at its reintroduction stations at the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi Province, and over 150 since 2011 at the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve in Aceh Province. The goal at both locations is to establish entirely new, genetically viable, self-sustaining populations of this Critically Endangered species in lush, biodiverse forests spread out across the island.

JANTHO REINTRODUCTON CENTRE

After being released, each orangutan is monitored by our staff dedicated just to this purpose – to ensure that the new population is safe and thriving. The teams start their follows in the morning once an orangutan departs from their sleeping nest and lasts until the evening, when they build a new nest to sleep in. The purpose of this monitoring is to collect comprehensive data related to behavior and survival capability of the reintroduced orangutans.

Building on this, since 2016 the SOCP has been running site-wide SMART Patrol survey in Jantho, to monitor orangutans that have dispersed throughout the rather massive Nature Reserve. By surveying remote areas, the chance of encountering at least a proportion of the more dispersed orangutans is dramatically increased, yielding considerable new data, including survival rates, behavior, habitat use and preferences. These data expand and enhance our understanding of the dispersal of individuals and the use of the undulating and diverse forest.

The survey teams have encountered reintroduced orangutans in areas distant from the release site that had not been seen for >1 year and newborns, which are the indication that the population being formed is capable of surviving in the Jantho Nature Reserve without any human influence. These promising results have allowed us to identify key dispersal routes and areas of extensive use.


Are you interested in what we are working on?

Of course you can join Contribute with us!

By join research with us

We at SOCP are always looking for motivated researchers to come to Indonesia and participate at one of our three long-term monitoring stations in the Sumatran provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra.

For research inquiries,

please click the button below. 

By supporting us with donation.

Donations of any size, from individuals and grants from foundations, as well as partnership enquiries are extremely welcome and greatly appreciated.

© 2023 YEL. All Rights Reserved.