Woodland Park Zoo’s conservation partner, Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program (GPOCP), sends us this powerful news from the field. This is the story of an injured orangutan named Pelansi, his rescue by the International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia, and how we work to address the conditions that led to his harrowing experience...
Pelansi after surgery in Ketapang, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
In the Bornean district of Ketapang, West Kalimantan, where GPOCP works, we received word of a male orangutan caught in a snare. Pelansi, named after the area he was found in, had been trapped in the snare for 10 days, caught by his hand, without access to food or water. Snares are typically set to catch pigs and deer, both to eat and for meat to sell. But as humans and wildlife are forced to live closer and closer in decreasing habitats, such snares can pose an unintended threat to orangutans and other wildlife.
Rescuers carry Pelansi out of the forest. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
When GPOCP partner, International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia, an NGO working in the area to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans, was alerted to the situation, they arrived to find him in critical condition. Pelansi’s arm was infected and decaying with septicemia, which had already spread throughout his body causing a dangerously high fever of 104°F. Nothing could be done to save Pelansi’s decayed hand, so he underwent surgery to amputate his lower arm, just below the elbow joint. Thankfully, he is now making a good recovery and, if he continues to do so, should be able to be released back into the wild once a location is identified that is safe from snares and other man-made threats.
Pelansi rests after surgery. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
Although Pelansi’s recovery is miraculous, his story illustrates the plight of orangutans throughout Borneo and Sumatra. As a result of forest clearing for logging and oil palm, Pelansi was driven into an area where humans and wildlife are competing for space and food. One important aim of GPOCP’s Environmental Education and Alternative Livelihoods Program is to mitigate the conflicts that arise when orangutans and humans are forced to live close together in ever decreasing patches of forest. GPOCP works to raise awareness about issues such as the dangers of snares and the importance of forest and orangutan conservation.
Pelansi is doing well in his recovery and could be released soon. Photo courtesy of International Animal Rescue Indonesia.
In addition, GPOCP sets up alternative livelihood programs that provide villagers with sustainable livelihood options, such as fisheries and small-scale agriculture, as an alternative to activities that are detrimental to the forest and wildlife.
Organic farming at the Environmental Education Centre. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.
A recent GPOCP endeavor is a biogas project that started with nine families and aims to reduce deforestation for household fuel purposes. Other communities are involved in producing non-timber forest products and we are currently expanding the bamboo furniture-making cooperative. Another new initiative is an organic farming project that uses charcoal technology in village farming. Charcoal provides an easily accessible, cheap and organic alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
|Bamboo furniture made at Environmental Education Centre. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.|
Finally, GPOCP lobbies the local government to make more conservation-friendly decisions in land management and planning and empower local communities to be involved with the process to enable them to have their rightful say in the future of the land that surrounds them.
Environmental education—like this orangutan movie night at Tanjung Baik Budi village—is an important part of orangutan conservation. Photo courtesy of Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program.
International Animal Rescue Indonesia’s mission is to assist in raising awareness about the protection and conservation of animals and their habitats. Currently IAR Indonesia runs a rehabilitation center for orangutans in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. The team has been caring for a growing number of orangutans in a temporary rescue center in Ketapang while they continue construction on a new center. That center will be able to care for up to 100 orangutans at a time, and includes large quarantine pens, a fully-equipped veterinary clinic, an education center, nursery with indoor and outdoor play area for babies and infants, and forested enclosures where orangutans can develop the skills and natural behaviors they will need in order to be re-released into the wild.
Together, GPOCP and IAR will continue to work together to find alternative livelihoods for the people of Indonesian Borneo that keep the forest intact and safe for orangutans and other species.