Sunday , May 16 2021

A UBC scientist to share experiences on the rehabilitation of orangutans in Indonesia

A researcher at the University of British Columbia shares his experiences with the "jungle school" in Indonesia, which rehabilitates the hardened orangutans back into the wild.

Jacqueline Sunderland-Groves spent eight years with the Borneo Orangutan Foundation for the Survival Foundation, founded in 1991 to deal with the large number of orphans and unlawfully held orangutans in need of rehabilitation.

"Much of what we do is focused on saving orangutans in areas of conflict, oil plantations, areas that have been burned, areas that have habitat disorders, but also the rescue of newborns found in the villages," she said.

Sunderland Groves, who is now a research scientist at the UBC School of Forestry for Wild Living Co-existence Laboratory, is discussing her experience running the Vancouver Foundation's Beit Biodiversity Museum on Sunday.

It takes about six to eight years for orangutan to graduate in the "jungle school" of the foundation, depending on how young the animals are when they come, she said in an interview Friday.

"The baby starts with a baby school, then goes to Forest School 1 and a Level 2 Forest School," she said. "Between six and eight years, they become very strong … and that's when they advance in naturally vegetarian areas or before relief on the islands."

A young Orangutan was recorded at the Borneo Orangutan Foundation for the Survival. (Ho / Canadian Press)

The school teaches the great monkeys the skills they need to survive in the wilderness that they have usually learned from their mothers, Sunderland-Groves said.

It includes how to climb trees, which foods to eat and which should be avoided, how to build night nests and how to avoid predators. Staff teach by example, which helps young orangutans to study.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, about 70,000 orangutans remain in Borneo, Sumatra, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Sunderland-Groves says the biggest threat to animal habitats comes from land clearing for palm oil plantations, with conflicts and forest fires contributing to the problem.

The foundation has two centers in Indonesia, placing about 550 orangutans. Since 2012, the organization has reintroduced 378 monkey monkeys into the wild.

Successful reintroduction is the one where the animal survives all year in the forest, said Sunderland-Groves.

This means that the monkey has learned to adapt to all seasons with feeding for another vegetation at a time when fruit is less abundant in the forest.

The foundation corresponds to animals with a radio transmitter prior to rebuilding, so that their progress can be tracked.

Teachers and babysitters become completely attached to monkeys, she said, with each animal having its own personality and characteristics.

"But just seeing the orangutan came out of the cage and climbed directly to the woods and knowing that it was the last time they were in the cage is great," she said.

While Indonesia is on the other side of the world, Sunderland-Groves said it is important that people in Canada take care of these creatures, as they share 97 percent of the same DNA as humans.

"From Borneo to British Columbia, we have to some extent the same problems," she said, adding that both areas are affected by forest fires and tree extraction, leading to a conflict between humans and wildlife.

"We share this planet and have the duty to protect it."

The rehabilitation "school" that Sunderland-Gros helped establish, is also the subject of a documentary series of 10 works placed on the air of the Love Nature Channel.

"Orangutan Jungle School" Premiere Sunday at 8 o'clock. and lasts for 10 weeks.

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