During a recent mission to return six rehabilitated orangutans to their home in the Bornean rainforest, we were thrilled to encounter two orangutans we had previously released. The pair, Shila and Pungky, had undergone rehabilitation at our rescue center in Ketapang, West Borneo, before being released into the forest in 2017, female Shila in March and male Pungky in June.
The recent release operation was carried out in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR). We joined forces with representatives of TNBBBR and the Natural Resources Conservation Agency of West Kalimantan (BKSDA) to release six orangutans in the park on February 14th, 2019.
It was during the epic journey to release the orangutans who had undergone rehabilitation at our center that we were delighted to come across Shila and Pungky high in the trees, always staying together as they searched for food and then built and shared a nest for the night.
Karmele Llano Sanchez, Program Director of International Animal Rescue (IAR) Indonesia, said: “One of the best things in the world is to meet rehabilitated orangutans in the wild, years after they have been released, not only surviving but thriving free in the forest.
“We were lucky enough to meet Shila and Pungky, who have become a loving couple and are learning from each other. We observed them from a distance and could see that both were healthy and active, moving easily from tree to tree as they foraged for food.
“When orangutans have spent many years in captivity and have undergone rehabilitation to develop the skills they need to survive in the wild, it is so uplifting to see that they are able to fend for themselves – and it reminds us how intelligent they are.
“Rehabilitation efforts require a huge investment of time and money but it is all worthwhile when we see proof that they are surviving and thriving! The projects don’t just give rescued orangutans a second chance, they also provide jobs for local communities and raise revenue for conservation projects including education, forest protection and community development.
A video of the 2019 sighting of Shila and Pungky.
“We are so grateful to everyone who supports our work and enables us to give these critically endangered orangutans a second chance in life. It is wonderful to see them back where they belong and know that they are thriving. That is the biggest thank you anyone could possibly wish for.”
Featured image: rescued and released orangutans Shila and Pungky, sighted two years after their release. This image and all images in this story credited to International Animal Rescue.