Creating New Wild Populations
A major focus of the SOCP is its specialist Orangutan Quarantine Centre near Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Since its completion in 2002, the centre has confiscated and cared for over 350 orangutans. Today, more than 170 individuals have been released to the wild at the Orangutan Reintroduction Centre in the rainforests of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, near Jambi in central Sumatra, and 100 at a second Reintroduction Centre in the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve in Aceh, near the northern tip of the island.
With these reintroductions, two entirely new, genetically viable and self-sustaining wild populations of this Critically Endangered species are being established in Jambi and Jantho, areas that historically did once harbour wild orangutans, but did not in more recent times.
The SOCP collaborates with the Indonesian Government’s Conservation Authorities (Ditjen KSDAE) to locate and confiscate orangutans kept illegally as pets and to assist them in prosecuting actors involved in the illegal trade of orangutans.
After confiscation, orangutans are brought to the SOCP’s purpose built Orangutan Quarantine Centre in North Sumatra. All orangutans received at the centre undergo a minimum 90-day strict quarantine period, during which general health checks and medical tests are carried out, in particular for Hepatitis B, tuberculosis and intestinal parasites. Once they have passed their health checks and quarantine period satisfactorily, they are gradually introduced to others and then transferred to the centre’s large socialization cages. In most cases this is the first time they have met and interacted with other orangutans since their initial capture, when their mother was killed and they first entered the illegal pet trade. They must first gain the knowledge and new skills they need to have the best possible chance of survival after reintroduction. Staff collect natural foods and nesting materials in the forest for them, so they already know what is food and how to eat it when they are released.
The SOCP also rescues and relocates wild orangutans that have become isolated in areas being converted to non-forest uses, such as oil palm plantations.
Once deemed mature enough and fit for returning to the wild, orangutans are transferred to one of two reintroduction sites, one at the edge of the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi Province, and the other in the Jantho Pine Forest Nature Reserve in Aceh Province. Here they will be released to form new, genetically viable populations in these extensive, protected forest blocks.
SOCP field staff continue to monitor their progress on a daily basis, until satisfied they are managing to cope by themselves. To date more than 270 orangutans have been reintroduced to the wild at Jambi and Jantho, gradually establishing two entirely new populations of this Critically Endangered species in forests within its historical range but outside its current wild distribution.