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The BOS Foundation runs two orangutan rehabilitation centers: in Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan and in Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, with the main goal of releasing healthy orangutans back in the wild. For this reason, orangutan welfare is an instrumental factor. One of the four main focuses in animal welfare is animal care, which means providing healthcare for the whole orangutan population or individuals to support the management of husbandry and health issues, and to prepare a healthy population for reintroduction.

In Samboja Lestari, the annual health check for orangutans was conducted since last May to June. The health check is a preventative measure to ensure health conditions of our orangutan population. If we find an individual who is contracted with an infectious disease, we will immediately isolate this individual for intensive care to avoid a spread of the disease to the rest of the population. Our release candidates must also go through this health check.

Orangutans in enclosures were the first to be checked. These are adults with no regular contact with humans. They had to be sedated first, and then transported to the clinic. Health check consists of taking body measurements and body weight, taking blood sample, taking x-ray images, and conducting a thorough dental check.
Orangutan health check usually takes hours involving many people, in this case technicians and vets. The anesthetic process alone could take a while. Technicians must divert the individual’s attention, because orangutans usually recognize the darts we use to sedate them and will start kiss-squeaking in displeasure and throw twigs found inside the enclosure. Our technicians admit that this is the most difficult task. There are also orangutans who prefer to stay out of the enclosures, sleeping in the trees or above the enclosures. Shelton is one of them. When we need to perform health check on him, we have to use a tranquilizer blowpipe to sedate him because he is so high up above the enclosures. The second he falls asleep, the team will have to gently carry him down.

Orangutan Health Check in Samboja Lestari (Photo credit: Jacqueline Sunderland)

Orangutan Health Check in Samboja Lestari (Photo credit: Fransiska Sulistyo)

Orangutan Health Check in Samboja Lestari (Photo credit: Fransiska Sulistyo)

This recent health check involved all the vets in Samboja Lestari. They are vet Agnes as the Medical Coordinator of Samboja Lestari, vet Jati, vet Hafiz, and vet Rudiar, assisted by vet Fransiska Sulistyo, the BOS Foundation’s Animal Welfare Coordinator, and vet Dewi Candra, a veterinarian from Pulang Foundation currently in training and assistance of the Samboja Lestari medical team. They were also supported by several technicians.

In general, the medical team found all orangutans in good health. The medical team also rearranged orangutan placement in several enclosures to ensure each individual enjoys enough space and is able to socialize with others. As the vets identified that some orangutans have some dental problems, we are currently in need of a voluntary veterinarian with dental specialty to help us with these problems.

We hope that by performing regular general health check, all rehabilitated orangutans in Samboja Lestari can live healthily, and someday will be able to return to their true home, the forest.

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