In mid-July 2020 and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a terrified three-year-old orphaned orangutan arrived at our ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL in Borneo. The young female was in a poor condition, skinny, and with small wounds all over her body. By her facial expression of sheer terror when she was approached by a human, it was clear she was traumatized by what she had been through.
The orangutan was found all alone, whilst crossing a stretch of road that connect the cities of Sangatta and Bontang in Borneo. The Fire Department, who were patrolling the area, spotted her and brought her to the management section of Sangatta National Park. At first, they thought she should be returned straight into the wild, however, upon seeing her wounds and condition, it was clear that the orangutan would need more care and releasing her back alone into the forest would be extremely dangerous for her survival. The authorities got in touch with the FOUR PAWS ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL, which is operated by our local partner Jejak Pulang. The FOREST SCHOOL Veterinarian, Kiki, went to collect the orphaned orangutan, who became the tenth orangutan to join our rehabilitation program in Borneo.
She was named Lestari, meaning "everlasting" in the Indonesian language. At the age of three, she was much too young to be left alone in the wild, even if she had not been injured. We do not know how she lost her mother and how long this little infant had been adrift, disoriented, mourning, vulnerable and alone. She must have encountered humans as mortal enemies, but our caregivers are familiar with the signs of trauma and patiently gained her trust. We assigned two people to build her confidence while she was still in incoming quarantine. We allowed her to see Damai, who arrived in May, from a distance. Damai was already bonded to his caregiver, and as Lestari observed Damai and his caregivers together, she gained confidence and she soon began to trust that they would not hurt her.
Little by little as Lestari recovered from her traumatic experiences, she showed that there was a playful and self-confident orangutan inside. Once she had a clean bill of health and passed the period of quarantine that all our newcomers undergo, she could meet Damai directly and play with him. Soon after, they started to go to the ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL to begin again a more natural orangutan lifestyle in the canopy! She enjoyed venturing into the forest from her first trip, and she very quickly showed her forest skills; on her first day she built three nests in the trees! This is particularly useful for Damai, who has spent more time in a human environment, and helps him to learn from Lestari about how to move in the trees and what to eat.
As Lestari and Damai's bond grew, they were introduced to some of the resident orangutans in the FOREST SCHOOL. They first met Gonda and Kartini, and then later Tegar and Gerhana. Over the months, Lestari has grown in independence and confidence, and during the mid-day rain she already goes into the trees and builds a nest with shelter. It's become clear to the caregivers that she is a very skilled young orangutan! For Lestari, rescue came just in time and she could transition smoothly from the wild to the haven our forest school provides. Damai was not so lucky and needs to overcome the human influence that shaped his life before he arrived. Damai needs to learn how to become an orangutan, while Lestari just needs us to protect her while she is growing up.
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Stay tuned for her progress!