The Next Generation of Wild Orangutans is Born!
In 2012, FOUR PAWS cooperated with BOSF (Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation) to released six young orangutans back into the wild forests of Borneo. Of those six released, BOSF recently reported that orangutan Lesan has been seen with a baby in the wilderness of Kehje Sewen, her home for the past four years. The newborn appears to be a few weeks old and both mother and child are in good health. We are so proud and happy for Lesan, as this next generation of wild orangutans validates the success of our work and the struggle to conserve the species.
Lesan was rescued in 2006 as an orphan, a mere toddler, estimated to be three years old. For orangutans like Lesan, adapting successfully to freedom and motherhood is no small feat. She is alumna of BOSF’s Forest School and the Forest high school program, which was developed by BOSF and FOUR PAW’s Dr. Signe Preuschoft, to prepare her for her life in freedom. After six years of rehabilitation, Lesan, Casey, and friends were the first orangutans to be released in Kehje Sewen. To be sure that the released orangutans would adapt well and survive, FOUR PAWS sponsored an extensive post-release monitoring program. Dr. Signe Preuschoft says: “I cannot tell you how happy I am about this success! Orangutans are threatened so seriously that their hope of survival now rests on the successful reproduction of rescued and released orangutans – like Lesan. I also feel grandmotherly and proud, because I have seen Lesan grow up and make herself at home in Kehje Sewen. I still remember how, on the second day after their release, Lesan climbed 66ft up a tree and disturbed some nesting eagles. The startled eagles attacked by dive-bombing and chasing Lesan and her friends away. We all got a real scare.”
Dr. Anne Russon, who was present when Lesan was first brought to the rescue center, shares her memories of first meeting and getting to know Lesan.
"Lesan came to Samboja Rescue Station when she was about two to three years old. I don´t know any details but she was probably captured from the wild and had only spent little time in captivity. This was a good basis for her rehabilitation. She already had some forest skills, was oriented to forest life and had acquired only few human-oriented habits. She could quickly start her training at forest school. She made friends with Berlian and Bong, which were also "wild ones." The three of them spent most of their time at forest school high up in the trees, traveling, foraging, playing and nesting. I barely saw them, only when they entered forest school in the morning and left for the sleeping cages in the evening which is exactly what we want them to do.
There were also three other females at that time: Merrin, Febri, and Yuni. These females were more human-oriented. They spent more of their forest time on the ground, close to humans and fiddling with human goods. Like the three wild ones they stuck together, playing, eating and learning from each other. Orangutans learn with and from friends. Having forest-oriented friends is an important contributor to successfully resuming forest life. Lesan had wild orangutan friends who accompanied her in exploring the forest and learning about it. They undoubtedly helped her build strong forest skills and orient her social life to other orangutans versus humans which is important in enabling ex-captive orangutans resume independent forest life.
Seeing that Lesan is thriving after having been released and now has a baby shows the great value of our work."
Dr. Anne Russon is a Professor of Psychology at Glendon College, York University, Toronto, Canada. Since 1989, she has been studying intelligence and learning in ex-captive Bornean orangutans rehabilitated and released to free forest life. Studies have been affiliated with orangutan projects in Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Indonesian Borneo, and Orangutan Reintroduction Projects in East and Central Indonesian Borneo. She has published numerous research and popular articles on orangutan intelligence, scholarly and popular books on great ape intelligence. She has contributed to several documentaries on orangutans as scientific advisor and participant. She serves on advisory boards for several orangutan support organizations (Alchemy Films, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation–Indonesia, the Orangutan Conservancy, Orangutan Network) and is the Executive Director of the Borneo Orangutan Society of Canada. Anne Russon's most popular book, Orangutans: Wizards of the Rainforest.