Orangutan Mother and Daughter Released Back to the Wild

·5 min read

Non-partisan orangutan welfare organization works to secure and protect viable ecosystems to ensure the future survival of Critically Endangered orangutans.

NEW YORK , May 19, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- In the first of a series of orangutan releases back to the wild this year, the Bornean Orangutan Rescue Alliance (BORA) - a joint initiative of the Indonesian Nature Conservation Agency (BKSDA), Centre for Orangutan Protection and The Orangutan Project – has released two Critically Endangered Bornean orangutans into the Busang Ecosystem, one of the last remaining viable rainforest habitats for orangutans on the island of Borneo.

Mungil experiences her first taste of freedom in the wild after being released onto Dalwood-Wylie Island in the Busang Ecosystem.
Mungil experiences her first taste of freedom in the wild after being released onto Dalwood-Wylie Island in the Busang Ecosystem.

The mother and daughter pair – Ucokwati (aged 18 years) and Mungil (aged 8 years) - were deemed eligible for release after successfully completing rehabilitation at the BORA Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre in East Kalimantan.

The pair had previously been cared for at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java. Ucokwati was brought to the Centre after being rescued from an amusement park in October 2011 and gave birth to daughter Mungil in May 2013.

"We don't know how long Ucokwati had been held in captivity at the park," said Hardi Baktiantoro, field manager for The Orangutan Project and founder of the Centre for Orangutan Protection. "As with most orangutans that end up in such places like these, it is highly probable that she was taken from her mother as an infant and sold into the illegal pet trade."

With the Wildlife Rescue Centre forced to close due to financial difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair were translocated to the BORA Centre in April 2021 after being identified as successful candidates for release.

"Both had demonstrated advanced foraging and nest-making skills, as well as a healthy dislike for humans," Baktiantoro said. "Ucokwati is particularly aggressive towards humans, no doubt due to her ill-treatment while in captivity, and this made her a prime candidate to successfully transition back into the wild."

The pair were released onto Dalwood-Wylie Island located in the Busang Ecosystem, a 340km, 10-hour journey by road from the BORA Centre, followed by a three-hour journey by boat along the Busang River.

Their release onto the island provides an opportunity for the pair to experience the freedom of life in the wild while still being closely monitored by staff from BORA. It is expected they will make their full transition back to the wild within several months as they become increasingly independent and venture further into the Busang Ecosystem.

Later this month, two other male orangutans under the care at BORA will also be released into the Busang Ecosystem. It is the mission of the alliance to secure and protect viable ecosystems like the Busang Ecosystem to ensure the future survival of Critically Endangered orangutans.

"We are currently living in the most important decade in the history of our planet for species survival," said Leif Cocks, founder of The Orangutan Project. "We are facing an extinction crisis unlike anything we have ever seen before due to the ongoing impact of habitat loss and the illegal trade of wildlife that has devastated populations of many animal species and led to an unprecedented loss of biodiversity.

"Unless we can secure and permanently protect fully functional ecosystems of the right type, shape and size within the next 10 years, then it is inevitable that orangutans will become extinct in the wild as populations will be too small to be genetically viable."

The Busang Ecosystem is one of eight ecosystems identified as being strategically-critical for the future survival of Critically Endangered orangutans. Each ecosystem requires a minimum of 2,000 orangutans to ensure the population is sustainable.

"The alliance has been granted approximately 20,000 hectares within the 260,000 hectare Busang Ecosystem to undertake orangutan rehabilitation and release for Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans," Cocks said.

"The release of orangutans like Ucokwati and Mungil back to the wild gives hope that we can revert the impending extinction crisis," Cocks said.  "But we cannot do it alone. We need more individuals to join us to secure and protect viable rainforest habitat before it is too late."

To find out more about the work of The Orangutan Project and how you can support, visit www.theorangutanproject.org

About The Orangutan Project
The Orangutan Project was established in 1998 with a critical mission; to ensure that Critically Endangered orangutan species are protected against Extinction and will continue to live in viable wild populations for generations to come. Today, The Orangutan Project is a dynamic, fast-growing and successful non-profit organisation that has raised over $25 million to support a wide range of critical projects that address the holistic problem facing fragmented orangutan populations - including fighting deforestation and habitat loss at the highest level.

About the Centre for Orangutan Protection 
Founded in 2007, the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) is an Indonesian direct-action group who work to create a better life for orangutans, whether they are individuals in captivity or as a population in the wild. Partnering with The Orangutan Project, the COP team worked hand in hand with authorities to secure the last remaining orangutan habitat, mitigate conflict between wild animals versus humans including rescue, rehab and release the orangutan. COP operates several rapid-response teams that help animals in need and with its supporter group is probably one of the strongest grassroot groups in Western Indonesia.

Heather Ripley 
Orange Orchard 
(865) 977-1973


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SOURCE The Orangutan Project