School For Orangutan
The Central Kalimantan Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation has released hundreds of orangutans into the wild. A number of women were trained to work as carers and teachers for these primates.
Every morning, Letha Kristin prepares her ‘son’ for school, equipping him with toys, milk, and fruits such as a banana and pineapple. These supplies are placed in a lanjung, a traditional Dayak rattan backpack. "They’re for Fajar," said the 27-year-old.
Fajar is a male one-year-old orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) who lives at the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) rehabilitation center in the Nyaru Menteng Forest, around 29 kilometers from Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan’s capital. Like human children, Fajar goes to school every day along with tens of other orangutan babies between 0-3 years old.
The ‘kindergarten’ is held in the open air, in Nyaru Menteng’s forest surroundings, and is aimed at introducing orangutan babies to a forest habitat and to teach them to recognize proper nourishment. "Schooling is part and parcel of the orangutan rehabilitation program," said BOS Foundation’s Chief PR Executive Monterado Fridman.
The foundation established the orangutan rehabilitation center in Nyaru Menteng, Tumbang Tahai village, 20 years ago. Since then, thousands of orangutans from Kalimantan, Java and even from overseas such as Kuwait, have enrolled in training. At the end of the rehabilitation program, seven-year-old orangutans undergo a pre-release process on the Salat Island in Pisau Regency.
Salat Island is chosen as an orangutan conservation site due to its intact natural forest, thus far untouched by infrastructure, and its abundant sources of food. But the island is now at overcapacity. One orangutan requires one hectare of land. A prerelease site is considered ideal if it can accommodate at least 250 orangutans.
Orangutans on Salat Island are supervised remotely. According to Monterado, two chips are placed on the orangutans prior to their release. The first contains the orangutan’s identity, while the second detects its whereabouts in the forest. "So we can see whether or not an orangutan can survive in Salat."
After one year of living on the Salat Island, a surviving orangutan will be moved to the Bukit Baka-Bukit Raya National Park in the Katingan regency and into the protected forest of Bukit Batikap in the Gunung Raya regency. Currently, 450 orangutans from Nyaru Menteng have yet to be released into the wild. Finding suitable habitats for orangutans is the foundation’s greatest obstacle.