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News from FOUR PAWS orangutan rescue station in Borneo


Orang baby Saragih snuggles up with fellow orangutan


Orangutan baby Saragih was born in April 2015 in Borneo’s Samboja Lestari orangutan rescue station, run by FOUR PAWS and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF). He is in the best of health, and is coming along very well. Saragih lives with his mum, Signe in the rescue station’s forest school, where rescued orangutan orphans are nursed back to health and prepared for a life of freedom in the forest.


Saragih is full of life, and is discovering his world on his own initiative, to the joy of the FOUR PAWS staff, who take great care to look after their charges. “We’re past the period where Saragih could just about manage to cling onto his mummy’s fur and scarcely had the strength or knowledge to find her breast and suckle”, says Dr Signe Preuschoft, primatologist and head of the FOUR PAWS orangutan project. “Today we see a spirited little orangutan, who uses his mother’s body as a climbing wall, and is already practising reaching for lianas and pulling his little self up on them.” Orang-mum Signe, who came to the rescue station as an orphan seven years ago, does not let her baby out of her sight for a second, and shows him the patience of a saint typical of orangutan mothers. The two are perfectly in tune. If Saragih wants to turn, Signe sits completely still. If Signe wants to move on, she straightens Saragih up, and the little one then climbs onto her and simply lets himself be transported.


Recently Dr Preuschoft and two of her colleagues were witness to a magical moment. Signe and Saragih were moving through the forest at sunset, when they met seven-year-old orphan Kiki, who was sitting in a tree picking fruit. Suddenly, Saragih let go of his mother’s body and reached his little hand out towards Kiki’s face. The two kids started to snuggle up and kiss. “We were fascinated and spellbound by these gentle caresses, and the way our protégés so softly got to know each other in the golden light of the setting sun”, said Preuschoft. “Of course it’s lovely that these two orangutan children like each other so much, and it makes us very happy. Moments like these are a reward for all our effort, and they give us strength.” In the meantime, Saragih has also affectionately made friends with other orangutan children in the forest school, always accompanied by his attentive mother Signe, naturally.


Signe is the first orangutan to give birth in the forest school. Her pregnancy, however, was unplanned: in fact, the young lady had been fitted with a birth control implant. Preuschoft: “Orangutans have very nimble fingers. She probably removed the implant herself.” Along with Signe and Saragih, Preuschoft and her team look after six other orangutans: Sri, Justin, Ung, Heli, Kiki and Robert. Step-by-step, and each at their own pace, they are being prepared for a life of freedom.


The last four decades have seen vast areas of Borneo’s rainforest destroyed. Many thousands of orangutans have fallen victim to the palm oil, tropical wood, and coal industries. Every year, 2000 to 3000 orangutans are killed, often intentionally for a bounty payment, as they are seen as thieves of the crop in oil palm plantations. Defenceless orphans whose mothers were targeted and killed are illegally sold as pets by animal dealers.


Since 2007, FOUR PAWS has been working with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) at the Samboja Lestari rescue station in East Kalimantan/Borneo to give these persecuted orangutans a second chance, and to restore their dignity.