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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adjust our daily lives and, oftentimes, learn new skills that we never would have expected to need before. The members of our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team at Camp Nles Mamse in the Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan, have had to take on a new role in addition to field technician in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

To keep our orangutan and habitat conservation efforts going strong, we at the BOS Foundation implemented new procedures to ensure that our working teams were kept safe from the SARS-COV-2 virus. This included our teams working in the forest, our PRM teams. Since it is very difficult to get health workers from the public health facilities in the nearest towns to travel all the way to our camps in the forest, we decided to train our PRM team members on how to test themselves for COVID-19. This was the best way to ensure our staff were kept safe from COVID-19, while also not interfering with their daily duties.

At the end of September, a team from the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in East Kalimantan, led by veterinarian and Program Manager Agus Irwanto, left for Camp Nles Mamse. This team was tasked with training our PRM team members on the proper way to conduct rapid tests using the home testing kits available on the market. The rapid test utilises saliva samples and allows for the results to be directly analysed at the camp. The team trained the camp coordinator on the method used to collect the samples and produce the result. In order to save time, real samples were taken during the training and analysed that very day at the camp.

Vet Agus Irwanto, who provided training on the use of the self-testing kits, shared that every member of the PRM team was very excited to participate. It was PRM team member Ayu Siti Nurika who was tasked with taking samples from her colleagues. There were nine PRM team members in the camp that day and the test results for each and every one of them were negative for COVID-19. Vet Agus stressed that the procedures required patience, and that precision and accuracy must be prioritised.

We hope that the ongoing vaccination effort soon brings and end to this pandemic, but, in the meanwhile, our hard-working teams will continue to do all they can to prevent the virus spreading to the wild orangutan population. As one of our closest cousins, orangutans are vulnerable to many as the same diseases as us humans! We must, and we will, remain vigilant. We are grateful for any assistance that assists us in achieving this goal!

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