Jambi Orangutan Reintroduction Centre

The reintroduction project in Jambi Province was the first orangutan reintroduction centre established under the SOCP. It was built in 2002 by Dr Peter Pratje and is managed by SOCP partner, the Frankfurt Zoological Society. The first orangutans were released there in January 2003, and included the SOCP’s very first orangutan, Waikiki. Since then, more than 150 orangutans have been released to the wild.

The project in Jambi effectively includes two field reintroduction sites. The first, known as Sungai Pengian, lies 46 km from the nearest main road in the forests at the edge of the western boundary of the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park. A second site, named “Danau Alo”, was established in 2009 and sits at the other side of the park, on its eastern side, again just 4 km from its boundary.

Both sites are fully equipped with holding cages, orangutan food preparation facilities, medical facilities and staff canteen and accommodation.

On arrival from the SOCP’s orangutan quarantine centre near Medan, orangutans are first placed in holding cages and given time to settle into their new surroundings and get used to their new caretakers. Staff from Medan also normally accompany them to help settle them in, and they travel in small groups with other orangutans they know well, again helping to reduce the stress of the journey and change of environment.

During these first few weeks in the cages the Jambi staff monitor them and assess their behavior and “character”. Those that are considered manageable are then taken out of the cages daily and into the forest, to explore and learn the skills they will need when eventually released for good. During this stage in the process, they are introduced to forest foods and staff will help to teach them what they can eat and how to eat it, sometimes by eating it themselves. Foods like termites and thorny rattan vines are not necessarily things that the orangutans would try without first being shown that they can eat them and encouraged to do so.

Bigger and more boisterous, less manageable orangutans must remain in the cages for longer, and staff collect forest foods to bring to them. Staff also collect leaves and branches every day for the orangutans to make a nest with in the cages, so they can assess how good they are likely to be at nest building once released and living in the trees.

When the staff are happy that an individual is finally ready to live permanently in the forest, they are then released at a more remote location, where they will encounter orangutans already released previously.

Field staff then track and follow the orangutans on a daily basis, recording everything they do every 2 minutes throughout the day. These are known as “nest to nest” follows, as they start when the orangutan first wakes up and exits its nest in a morning, and continue until after they have built a new nest to sleep in the next night.

The importance of this kind of “post release monitoring” cannot be over emphasized. It is essential that we continue to track the progress of as many released orangutans as we can, for as long as we can, so that we can evaluate success and adapt and change our methods if we see orangutans having problems. On occasions we also need to intervene as well, to provide occasional supplementary food or veterinary care if an orangutan is found to need it.