After reading our previous blog you should have an idea of what OC/OVAG (Orangtuan Conservancy – Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group) is and the main aim of the project.
As we mentioned, two vets from Indonesia – Winny and Siska – are currently on a three month placement here in the UK. They will be spending time here at Chester Zoo, meeting with different members of staff across the organisation to improve their skills and knowledge.
Through OC/OVAG Winny and Siska are able to improve on their skills in various aspects of wildlife and orangutan health which they can then take back with them and apply to their day to day jobs.
They will be keeping us updated on what they get up to during their time here, which we will obviously share with you too.
Siska has been working with the orangutans in Indonesia for around seven years, gaining most of her experience from working at a rescue and rehabilitation centre. The centre she is currently working at – based in central Kalimantan – is run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). The main aim of the centre is to rescue and rehabilitate displaced orangutans and prepare them for a healthy life back in the wild.
Siska exploring Islands at Chester Zoo, with OVAG mascot Gavo. Photo credit: Siska Sulistyo
When Siska first started working there, back in 2007, the centre held around 700 individual orangutans. Today they have around 491.
Here she tells us more about the work she does and her role at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation:
“My day at the Nyaru Menteng center would start early morning, when I and the other vets make rounds and generally check the orangutans in the group that we supervise on that day. There are nursery group for orangutans aged under three years old, forest school group for orangutans between three to six years old, and the big ones are divided based on their location.
A group of orangutans at the ‘forest school’. Photo credit: Siska Sulistyo
“Routine activities include attending the patients, preparing and giving medication, discussing any husbandry issue with the keepers, doing lab work, and keeping records of everything that we do. As I was the head of the vet team, I also have to make sure that the clinic supplies, people’s schedules, and other administrative works are met.
“During my time at the center there are special cases and events that was close to my mind. In 2010, due to failed contraception program, one of our female sub adult orangutan had a baby, which was not expected at all. Adding to the problem, she refused the baby. As it was a few days old, it was decided that I would take care of him. Wigly, we named the baby later, was in a poor condition for didn’t get enough milk from his mother. I put him on tiny IV drip, and bottle-fed him every two hours. As I never had a baby of myself before, it was quite exhausting for me. Every night I had to take care of Wigly, and on day time I had to work as usual. Learning to be a mom is hard!
Wigly at the rehabilitation centre with other juvenile orangutans. Photo credit: Photo credit: Siska Sulistyo
“Luckily my effort was succeeded. After two months, Wigly had grown into a healthy young infant. Today, Wigly is a big five-year-old boy and has a dominant personality among his mates at the forest school.
“At the moment, the number of orangutan population in Indonesia and Malaysia has declined almost 75% in less than 100 years. The threats are numerous, as it is with other endangered wildlife. Orangutans in Indonesia are especially threatened with habitat loss due to forest conversion into mining, monoculture plantation, and human settlement; poaching for illegal trading; as well as hunting for bushmeat.
“With the remaining population struggling in patches of forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra, a comprehensive strategy must be done to prevent the numbers from constantly decreasing, stop the habitat conversion and habitat destruction, and supplement the current population by reintroducing viable sub-populations. The last step is the main aim of BOSF’s orangutan rehabilitation centers. We rescue and confiscate displaced orangutans, treat them and rehabilitate their physical and behavioural aspects, and when they are ready, they will be brought to their new, and hopefully last, home in the primary forest in the heart of Borneo.
Siska with her team releasing rehabilitated orangutans. Photo credit: Siska Sulistyo
“Starting in 2012, BOSF has released a total of 167 orangutans into safe forests. As we have two centers in East and Central Kalimantan, we also have two release sites for each. We the vets are involved in the preparation for the release, escorting during transportation to the release site, and post-release monitoring on those we have released.
“Today, with my role as the coordinator for animal welfare, my responsibility extends not just on the animals at the center, but also to another center in East Kalimantan. In total, both centers under BOSF are taking care of 704 orangutans and 56 sun bears.
“My responsibility is not just on the veterinary side, but also on the general welfare aspects of our animals. That means I have to know everything from enclosure designs, enrichment, nutrition, up to the behavioral observations and analysis which is critical to determine if an orangutan is ready to be released or not.
“Since 2009 I was involved in a network called OVAG (Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group). This started as a workshop initiated by Orangutan Conservancy, to build capacity and gather veterinarians working in orangutan conservation in its own habitat. Chester Zoo had been involved in the initiation and since then continuously supports the group with the scientific and skill resources they have. From OVAG I have gained so much, not just professional developments on veterinary and conservation management, but also family and friends.
“I am still learning a lot at the moment, and with the help and support of the amazing team of BOSF, families of OVAG, and other supporters, I hope to be able to keep contributing to the conservation of orangutans in Indonesia.”
Tomorrow we will share another blog with you, this time from Winny – who has provided us with an overview of the veterinary work she’s doing in Sumatra.