In conjunction with the observance of Earth Day, the BOS Foundation at Samboja Lestari, East Kalimantan will release three rehabilitated orangutans after nearly a decade of being unable to do so due to continuing challenges in finding a suitable and secure habitat for orangutans.
Samboja, East Kalimantan, April 22, 2012. This release involves the collaboration of all stakeholders, including the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Forestry, the Ministry of Environment, the Provincial Government of East Kalimantan, the Regency Governments of Kutai Kartanegara and East Kutai, as well as the Conservation and Natural Resources Authority of East Kalimantan (BKSDA East Kalimantan) and the people of Kutai Kartanegara and East Kutai.
The three orangutans – namely Casey, Lesan and Mail – will be taken by helicopter from the East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Samboja Lestari to the Kehje Sewen Forest in East Kutai Regency on April 22, 2012 and will be released on April 24, 2012 after spending a required two-day adjustment period in acclimatization enclosures.
The Kehje Sewen Forest is an ecosystem restoration concession (ERC) managed by PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), a company that was established by the BOS Foundation on April 21, 2009. As a non-profit organization under Indonesian law, the BOS Foundation is not legally allowed to acquire ERCs, thus RHOI was created as a vehicle for such acquisitions. This ERC permit gives us the right to use and manage a certain piece of land – in our case a forest – which we desperately need to release rehabilitated orangutans from the BOS Foundation Orangutan Reintroduction Center in East Kalimantan. We still need to secure more land in Central Kalimantan also for our ongoing release program there.
In addition to funds from the BOS Foundation’s overseas partners – Vier Pfoten, BOS Australia and BOS Switzerland – this release is also generously supported by the Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), EcoDynamics and Bank Central Asia (BCA), demonstrating that a positive synergy between the private sector and conservation is indeed attainable to achieve a sustainable future. In supporting the release operation, KPC and BCA both said that they are pleased to be partnering with the BOS Foundation, providing logistical support for the safe release of these orangutans. The implementation of this release is also supported by the availability of the Air Force helicopter type NAS-332 Super Puma from the Air Squadron 6 Lanud Atang Sendjaja Bogor, Indonesian Air Force. The flight is led by Major Henri Badawi and First Lieutenant Tri Nugroho W.
On behalf of the Government of Indonesia, the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Hatta Rajasa accompanied by the Minister of Forestry and the Minister of Environment will officially accept the orangutans and send them on the journey home to the forest. “I’m very proud and very happy to see our iconic orangutans will finally be returned to the forest where they belong. And I’m especially pleased to witness that companies like KPC and BCA are demonstrating a willingness to contribute to biodiversity conservation,” said Mr. Rajasa. He also hopes that a greater collaboration between NGOs and businesses will take place in the near future in order to explore ways to reduce harmful environmental trade-offs and identify more effective and sustainable management practices.
Joining Hatta Rajasa on this momentous day are the Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan, the Minister of Environment Prof. Dr. Balthasar Kambuaya, MBA, the Governor of East Kalimantan Dr. H. Awang Faroek Ishak, the Regent of Rita Widyasari and the Regent of East Kutai Isran Noor.
In line with the statement from Mr. Rajasa, the Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan said he will request the private sectors to participate in orangutan releases. “The orangutans release in East Kalimantan will be conducted in a restoration area. Restoration is a government policy to support environmental improvements and now we can see how ERCs are used as a restoration of the release area. In future we hope that local governments are also supporting the restoration of forest policy development in each region. We realized that the activity of rehabilitating orangutans is very costly. For the funding, I will be at the frontline to solicit the private sectors to become the sponsors of the orangutan releases. It’s not fair if we reject the help from them. That’s why we must work together to find solutions,” said Mr. Hasan.
Minister of Forestry continued to explain that orangutans are an effective seed disperser. An orangutan can travel up to 20 kilometers a day and while they travel, they disperse seeds all over the forest through their feces. They also open forest canopy every time they build nests, allowing the sun to penetrate to the forest floor, which in turn triggering the seeds to grow. “So you can see that orangutans play an important role as forest regenerators. That’s why we call them “the umbrella species”. A healthy population of orangutans will usually create a healthy forest and a complete and balanced ecosystem,” Zulkifli Hasan concluded. The Ministry of Forestry together with the Minister of Environment and the Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs are also taking this opportunity on Earth Day to support Samboja Lestari’s land rehabilitation program by planting trees.
The Minster of Environment Prof. Kambuaya also said, “It is time that all stakeholders really recognize the importance of orangutans and why we are protecting them. While the world is struggling to find a long-term solution to global warming and climate change, and using the polar bear as the icon to this problem, we should realize that Indonesia can provide a solution by protecting the orangutans and their habitat, the forest.”
Addressing the issue of habitat requirements for orangutans, Mr. Ishak stated, “The effort and the provision of land is part of the commitment of the Provincial Government, in cooperation with the relevant regency governments. Additional efforts are being conducted jointly between us, in favor of allocating forest to ecosystem restoration concessions which can be used as a place to release orangutans, especially those orangutans situated at Samboja Lestari. This activity is in line with Kaltim Green.”
Moreover, orangutan conservation efforts require high commitment and cooperation from all stakeholders in the enforcement of laws on the protection of orangutans. “If it is unavoidable, do not act alone, because it is breaking the law. Please cooperate with the BOS Foundation and Conservation and Natural Resources Authority of East Kalimantan (BKSDA East Kalimantan) to work together and find solutions,” adds the Governor.
Orangutan release operations will not stop here. On May 1, 2012, Samboja Lestari plans to release three more orangutans. “There are still around 160 orangutans at the East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Project at Samboja Lestari who are waiting to be released back to their natural habitat and around 70 more who cannot be released due to illness or injury, waiting for us to find and allocate an area for sanctuary so they, too, can live in the wild. If there is more suitable land available, the orangutan release efforts could be accomplished by 2015, according to the goals set in the Indonesia Orangutan Conservation Action Plan 2007–2017,” said Aschta Boestani Tajudin, Samboja Lestari’s Program Manager. The Action Plan was proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Indonesia in the Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007, which states that all orangutans in rehabilitation centers should be returned to their habitat not later than 2015.
General Director PHKA Ministry of Forestry added, “All of the healthy and able orangutans in rehabilitation centers should be returned to their natural habitat at the latest by 2015. This release operation will be continued until all the orangutans in rehabilitation centers are released.”
“After the release of these three orangutans, in the beginning of May, the BOS Foundation will release three more from Samboja Lestari. This should be supported with the availability of a viable forest. The role and support of our Country’s Government, especially the Regency Government of East Kutai becomes very important in this matter,” Dr. Jamartin Sihite, Director of the BOS Foundation said.
Dr. Sihite added, “These first releases in East Kalimantan have been carefully planned in coordination with all stakeholders and in line with IUCN and national guidelines. Our detailed planning process and the release of these first three orangutans will lay strong foundations for our ongoing release program over the next few years. This release operation is a first step after nearly 10 years during which we can not release the orangutans.”
This release operation is also supported by three media partners; Metro TV, Media Indonesia and Antara Photo, which are committed to raise the public awareness about orangutan conservations and encourage concrete actions from all stakeholders.