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Quarters for Conservation: BOSF

Hi Zoo Atlanta fans! Primate keepers and Quarters for Conservation Champions Brittney and Mike here. We wanted to give a field update from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), one of the three programs supported by our 2020-2021 Quarters for Conservation initiative, which donates 25 cents of every Zoo Atlanta admission to programs for wildlife.

This year has brought many challenges for us all due to the global pandemic and many of us have had to adapt to a “new normal” including our friends at BOSF.

To ensure that the orangutans at the rehabilitation centers are protected from possible COVID-19 exposure, BOSF has implemented more restrictive work protocols, including conducting rapid tests on personnel, routine temperature checks twice daily, and everyone must take leave from work as soon as they develop a fever or feel unwell. All staff are required to wash their hands frequently and wear surgical masks and protective gloves, and all disposable items are burned after the working day is over. The rapid tests have been made possible thanks to the generous support of the government and local health institutions; however, the increased use of hand soap, masks, and gloves has created a financial burden due to the market supply of these items dwindling and prices skyrocketing.

BOSF continues to do community outreach through the pandemic. Their ComDev team from Nyaru Menteng has distributed masks, hand soap, disinfectant, and other sanitation equipment within local communities. Three of their target villages – Bea Nehas, Deaq Lay, and Dea Beq – have all been closed to visitors after cases of COVID-19 were identified in the surrounding areas. The ComDev team joined the sub-district COVID-19 task force where they help man guardhouses in each village and provide food for other teams in addition to distributing PPE.

With all the changes to the daily routine, BOSF have made its best efforts to keep their orangutan residents on track. Residents of the rehabilitation centers continue to receive excellent day-to-day care. Young orangutans continue to progress through their lessons in “Forest School” to prepare to graduate to their new homes in the wild. Meanwhile, the released graduates continue to live their lives with as little human intervention as possible.

Earlier this year, members of the BOSF field team were the first to lay eyes on a new infant born to Nobri. This was a major occasion, as this infant would be the first BOSF infant born in 2020, as well as a second-generation baby born from the rehabilitation program! Nobri is one of BOSF’s most interesting success stories.

Shelli, Nobri’s mother, was rescued from the pet trade in 2001. She arrived at Nyaru Menteng at 8 years old. She spent two years in Forest School before being moved to a pre-release island where she would give birth to Nobri in 2005. She did a fantastic job raising Nobri without human assistance.

Nobri grew up in the pre-release forest and was known to be fiercely independent and incredibly distrustful of humans. She was so distrustful that when BOSF staff had decided that Nobri was ready to be released into the forest in 2013, Nobri evaded capture and ran away from her chance to go to the wild. She actually evaded capture for three years! It wouldn’t be until 2016 that BOSF team members were able to catch Nobri and take her to be released to the Bukit Batikap Protection Forest.

After a few years on her own in the forest, researchers noticed that Nobri had developed some strange swellings near her chest. The experts instantly recognized this as air sacculitis, a painful and deadly infection to her airways that is a common cause of death in orangutans. The BOSF team had to step in to capture Nobri and bring her to a rehabilitation center. Nobri received daily treatment and multiple surgeries over two and a half months before veterinarians deemed she was healthy enough to return to the wild.

Air sacculitis has a high rate of return in adult orangutans, so BOSF’s field team have made it a priority to watch Nobri closely whenever they get a chance to see any signs of a returning infection. The team was absolutely delighted to see her a few years later, not only in great health, but carrying a brand new baby! One can only imagine how proud the BOSF team can be to see Nobri living on her own in the wild and teaching her infant the same lessons that Shelli learned in Forest School from her human foster mothers.

(photo courtesy of BOSF)

–Mike Marazzi and Brittney Lie Tjauw
Primate Keepers and Quarters for Conservation Champions for Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

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