The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Orangutans Being Released Back Into The Wild

Into the wild, once again

A rehabilitator plans to start releasing rescued orangutans back into Borneo's forests. But there are concerns whether the tamed apes will survive out there.

Early next year, some 75 orangutans will relocate from a wildlife sanctuary to a remote forest in Central Kalimantan, an Indonesian province on the island of Borneo. After years of living with assistance from humans, can they survive?

A map of the island of Borneo, highlighting Central Kalimantan Province, where 50,000 orangutans live.

By Andrew Higgins
Saturday, November 14, 2009

PALANGKA RAYA, INDONESIA -- Over the past decade, Lone Droescher-Nielsen, a former Scandinavian Airlines Systems flight attendant, has saved nearly 600 orphaned orangutans in Borneo from almost certain death. Funded by donations from abroad, she has given the apes food, shelter and better health care than many humans in these parts ever get.

Now, the 46-year-old Dane is preparing for a more difficult -- and controversial -- task: returning tame orangutans to the wild. "They were born wild, and they deserve to go back in the wild again," said Droescher-Nielsen, founder and director of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation and Rescue Project. "That is our ultimate objective."

Early next year, if all goes according to plan, she'll release a first batch of about 75 rehabilitated orangutans into a remote forest in Central Kalimantan, an Indonesian province on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. Tiny radio transmitters placed under their skin will monitor their movements -- and help answer a big question: Can the animals survive?

Some experts wonder whether orangutans raised by humans will be able to hack life in the forest and whether diseases they might have caught in captivity will harm kin that never left the jungle.

Droescher-Nielsen, whose 10-year-old project has grown into the world's largest primate rescue effort, expects most to make it. "The ones we set free are not going to be wild, but they can manage," she said.

It will take a couple of generations for bad habits picked up in captivity to be completely purged. Disease, she added, shouldn't be a problem because the area selected for the trial release doesn't have a viable orangutan community of its own.

The orangutan -- which means "man of the forest" in a local language -- is one of mankind's closest cousins in the animal kingdom, sharing about 97 percent of its DNA with humans. But it has suffered catastrophically from contact with man.

A century ago, Borneo had more than 300,000 wild orangutans. Today, the number has fallen to about 50,000, most of which live in Central Kalimantan. They could vanish if forests keep getting chopped down at the current rate of what Indonesian environmentalists say equals the size of six football fields every minute. Palm oil plantations, which have expanded rapidly in recent years as demand for the cheap oil surged, have led to an even bigger influx of baby apes at the rescue center.

Droescher-Nielsen initially hoped to start returning orangutans to the wild years ago, but, as forests kept retreating, it became increasingly difficult to find a safe place to put them. The task was further complicated by the fact that rehabilitated apes don't fear humans -- a big problem when many humans see them as a menace and want them dead.

Keeping orangutans fed and sheltered is expensive. The Nyaru Menteng project has a staff of about 200 people. Salaries, food, medicines and other expenses mean that it costs about $2,000 a year for each of the nearly 600 apes in residence. That is more than twice the average annual income in the area. An additional 400 or so of the primates are being cared for in other rehabilitation centers in Borneo.

Source and Photographs

No comments:

Post a Comment