A Sumatran Orangutan born at Perth Zoo will shortly be released into a protected rainforest in Indonesia to help the critically endangered species in the wild.
‘Nyaru’ an eight year old male orangutan departed Australia on 10 May, travelling with a Perth Zoo veterinarian, Karen and two zoo keepers, Holly and Katie, to Bukit Tigapuluh, a protected forest in Sumatra.
Perth Zoo CEO, Susan Hunt, said: “We are incredibly proud that we are the only zoo in the world releasing Sumatran Orangutans into the wild, a program run by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Indonesian Government.”
“Nyaru has been prepared since birth for this momentous occasion and we are confident he has the skills for wild success,” said Susan.
Nyaru’s pre-release preparation is part of Perth Zoo’s Jungle School program and has included the introduction of Indonesian fruits to the animals’ diet, enrichment items to sharpen his foraging skills and access to a large fig tree to increase Nyaru’s fitness and hone his climbing and nest-making skills.
“I am often asked: “Why do you do it? “Isn’t it much safer to keep these precious orangutans in a good zoo, like Perth Zoo? What is Perth Zoo trying to prove? ” said Susan.
“My message back is simple. The situation facing Sumatran Orangutan is serious and extinction in the wild is a real possibility. Perth Zoo has one of the largest Sumatran Orangutan breeding groups in the world. We are a conservation organisation committed to the preservation of wildlife through education and action. What we do is so much more than a release program. We also assist efforts to rehabilitate and release ex-pet and orphaned orangutans, fund wildlife poaching patrols, community education programs and efforts to mitigate human /elephant conflict.
To be involved in wildlife action on the ground which is aligned with our values; is supported by the Indonesian authorities; is scientifically based; and consistent with guidelines from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is a perfect fit. “
So far, Nyaru has settled into Sumatra exceptionally well. He is currently living in a complex at a sanctuary to allow him time to adjust and get used to his new environment, before being released into the forest.
Nyaru has been enjoying the new forest fruits and branches he has been given. Whilst he is at the sanctuary his new carers give him the whole fruits rather than cut up pieces so he can see exactly what it looks like which will help him identify it and find it himself in the forest when he is released.
He is also getting much better at nest building. Nyaru has been seen carrying his branches up to his nesting site and found there in the morning. This is a great step in his progression to wild life as Nyaru was a bit lazy with nest building whilst at Perth Zoo!
Importantly Perth Zoo staff noted Nyaru has been confident, inquisitive and playful in his new Sumatran environment. He hasn’t been seeking reassurance from Holly and Katie who travelled with him, proving he is ready for the next big step in his life.
It is expected Nyaru will be released late July / August to coincide with the fruiting season. He will be tracked for up to three years post his release.
The orangutan release program is run by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Indonesian Government. Since 2003, more than 160 ex-pet trade and orphaned orangutans have been rehabilitated and released into Bukit Tigapuluh.
Author: Danielle Henry – Media and Communications Manager