Het aftellen is begonnen
(Nederlandse vertaling volgt)
The clock is ticking
By: Dr. Willie Smits
The time is 14.32 on Easter Sunday. Only two more days around this time five orangutans from the Sintang Orangutan Center will be roaming through their virgin forest in Tembak, some three hours south from the district capital of Sintang in West Kalimantan.
Amazing Mamat, who once was so close to death after seven years of chicken feed, just now played rough games high in the trees with his friend Beno who will join him on Tuesday to the Tembak forest. Beno who once was so close to his human owners, even eating human food at the dinner table with the family in Jongkong, a village close to the remote Putussibau area, finally has more orangutan friends and after losing some five kilograms of fat through healthy food and lots of exercise is now able to move between the trees again. And then there is Jojo! The 7 kilogram heavy orangutan baby we brought back from Tembak is going back to Tembak! But this time not to that small wooden cage where we found him, but to the protected jungle behind his former prison confines. Jojo still sucks her left foot thumb now and then but climbs as the best and is a healthy 23 kilograms heavy now. And then there is big friend Momo. He is the fattest of them all at 24 kilograms, since he likes to steal food from others, but he is an accomplished climber and nest builder and he plays with everyone else in the group. And then there is our small Joy. She lived on a garbage heap in the hot sun. No shade, no protection from rain. She was only 12 kilograms wghen she arrived last year and still weighs only a bit more than half the weight she should have been at her age and still often hugs herself while jumping up and down or beating her head against the wall. But just now in the forest she was unrecognizable! Easily moving from tree to tree at 20 meters height she is probably the best climber in the group.
And then there was number six… But beautiful peaceful female Penai will not yet join the first group as planned. She recently developed a hernia that doctor Victor will have to operate on before she can join the Tembak group. But who knows in a couple of weeks if everything works out well with the operation?
Doctor Victor just came back from Tembak last night. Everything is on schedule to take our orangutan friends to the jungle on Tuesday. Tomorrow the Ministry of Forestry will bring our new transport cages and the forestry officials that were involved in the various confiscations will come along with us on Tuesday to Tembak to bring them to their forest.
Just now we are evaluating the video we shot from Beno and Mamat playing together in the trees and the swift movements of Joy. Momo moves slower but goes up high as well just as Jojo does. These five are ready to go! The clock is ticking!
(update 21-4-2014, 16:59 uur)
Tomorrow! Will be the day that we will take our first five to Tembak!
Today, Monday 21st, 2014, we started off the day with a meeting at the Ministry of Forestry’s nature conservation office in Sintang. The new head, pak Hadiat, was all smiles. He already had gotten the instruction from his head office in Pontianak that the orangutan release had the green light from Jakarta. He himself will accompany us to Tembak and they will bring along two four wheel drive forest police vehicles to transport the orangutans.
Then I mentioned the information we had on the animal trader and the baby orangutan. He called in the head of his forestry police unit, Mr. Tarijan. He was very reluctant and suspicious of me and my new information on the baby orangutan not far from Sintang. I shared what I had and also mentioned that I had been doing such operations for many, many years all over Indonesia. Then pak Hadiat, said “I know Willie, you may have forgotten me, but I have not forgotten the operation where you faced off with the army guy near Pontianak who swore there was no orangutan and then you smelled an orangutan and made that sound and then you climbed on the roof and found the baby orangutan under the roof. I was there with you!”. I told him he had grown fat since then so I had not recognized him, something that is perfectly okay in Indonesia to say to people.
Now Mr. Tarijan all of a sudden changed, realizing he was dealing with a person that once had written part of the rules he was to implement. Quickly he left for the field to do his intelligence work. Mr. Hadiat looked through the 200 page report that Dudung handed him on our Sintang Orangutan Project, felt how heavy it was and said “Good work!”… Then he told with a big smile that our project had gotten first place at the exhibition in Jakarta in the Ministry of Forestry! Success for our orangutan project! All officials of the Ministry had passed our stand and admired the beautiful lay out and good information. Then I handed him all the paperwork for the German film team to record the release of the orangutans and asked him to do his best so the world could see our hard work to help the orangutans.
I left the forestry office, leaving Dudung and Dr. Victor behind, to return to the Kobus Foundation where our Sintang Orangutan Center is located. The German team filmed a bit more in the clinic and with the orangutans playing in the trees while waiting for news when we could film the confiscation. Pak Riyanto, our sugar palm coordinator who is from the tribe where the baby orangutan was kept, also went to the field to find out where the baby might exactly be. Unfortunately it was not found yet. In the mean time the new transport cages arrived, brought by the forestry police in preparation of the release tomorrow.
I had some more meetings with the staff on all the needs of the project and reporting requirements. We inspected the new wall protecting the clinic and orangutan facilities and made a list of various small improvements needed. Then a last meeting with the team that will take the orangutans tomorrow about snacks to bring, banana leaves to keep them cool, and lots of other small things that hopefully will make the transport less stressful for the orangutans.
Dr Victor and Dr. Sri, our two veterinarians, went off on another tip off that there might be a big orangutan in a nearby part of Sintang. It turned out to be a pig tail macaque (Macaca nemestrina). Protected, but we have no place for it unfortunately. So many animals in need but not enough means to help them all.