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After months of waiting, the time finally came just before Christmas: Nine orangutans were returned from Malaysia to Sumatra to be cared for at our quarantine and rehabilitation centre. And eventually to be reintroduced once again to Sumatra’s rainforests. How are they today?
For some time, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Sumatra Orangutan Conservation Programme, SOCP, had been planning the repatriation of nine Sumatran orangutans that had been smuggled into Malaysia and confiscated by the authorities there. They had been captured from the wild and smuggled to Malaysia as illegal trade goods. During 2020 the team in Indonesia worked closely with the Ministry’s Directorate General for Conservation of Natural Resources (Ditjen KSDAE) to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles and enable these orangutans to return to their island of origin – Sumatra.
On December 18, 2020, the time had finally come: The orangutans, all previously tested negative for the corona virus, landed safely at Kuala Namu Airport in North Sumatra and were brought from there directly to our quarantine and rehabilitation centre near the city of Medan. Now the four males (Unas, Sai, Peyet, Ying, Feng) and five females (Yaya, Zola, Zila, Shielda) are undergoing a strict quarantine period of at least 3 months before they can be declared fit and healthy and able to embark on the next stage of their rehabilitation and eventual return to a live in the wild in Sumatra’s rainforests.
Dr Yenny Saraswati, the senior veterinarian in the quarantine and rehabilitation centre, carried out an initial medical test on all nine orangutans. She says: «All repatriated orangutans have no serious health problems. Immediately after their arrival a few of them appeared tired and / or lacking in appetite, but they are now progressing well. »
Once this quarantine phase is over, the young great apes will be socialised with other orangutans and begin learning the skills they will need to survive in the wild once again. It will be a few years, however, before they eventually get that chance, and to play their role in the strengthening of the new wild orangutan populations we are creating via our orangutan reintroduction programme.