Penajam Paser Utara – Iskandar and Bento, two orangutans from Kalimantan, arrived at their homeland on Thursday, 3 October 2019, after dozens of years of living in Sulawesi. The two orangutans imported from North Sulawesi are ready to become residents at the Arsari Center for Orangutan Sanctuary or Pusat Suaka Orangutan ARSARI (PSO-ARSARI), managed by Yayasan ARSARI Djojohadikusumo (YAD) in cooperation with Natural Resources Conservation Center of East Kalimantan (BKSDA Kaltim).
Bento and Iskandar are Borneo-native orangutan (Pongo Pygmaeus), a species which existence has been announced as critical in 2019. Before being admitted at PSO-ARSARI, Iskandar had quite a dark past. Unlike Bento, which was made into a pet in Manado from birth until age 5, Iskandar was the first infant orangutan to be rescued from an operation to smuggle endangered and protected animals in 2004. At that time, Iskandar was only 1 year old and would be smuggled to the Philippines. This effort was successfully thwarted by a combined task force before the smugglers arrived on Bitung Island, North Sulawesi, which at that time was one of the routes used to smuggle wildlife out of the country due to sharing sea borders with the Philippines.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) through BKSDA of North Sulawesi and BKSDA of East Kalimantan together with YAD through PSO-ARSARI, and the Masarang Foundation through the Animal Rescue Center (PPS) Tasikoki, and related parties have carried out a translocation process to return Bento and Iskandar back to Kalimantan. Upon arrival in East Kalimantan, Bento and Iskandar have placed temporarily in a quarantine enclosure at the PSO-ARSARI located in the PT. ITCI site in Maridan Hamlet, Sepaku Sub-District, Penajam Paser Utara Regency. Then they will be moved to a sanctuary island repurposed for orangutan.
“The establishment of PSO-ARSARI is to answer the needs of a sanctuary for orangutans who grow old in cages due to being illegally kept by humans, who are confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade since infancy, who are sick, and with other conditions that prevent them from being released into the wild,”Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Chairman of YAD and CEO of PT. ITCI, remarked.
Bento and Iskandar, he said, would later be situated on a sanctuary island at Penajam Paser Utara Regency which managed by PSO-ARSARI.
The translocation of these two orangutans started from Tasikoki PPS since 28 September 2019 by land and sea transportation moda, and arrived at Kariangau Port in East Kalimantan on 3 October 2019.
“The translocation process of Bento and Iskandar took 5 days in total. It is not an easy process, but needs to be done in consideration of the welfare of Orangutans to be able to live freely in their natural habitat in Kalimantan,” said Sunandar, Head of BKSDA of East Kalimantan, affirmed by Noel Layuk Allo, Head of BKSDA of North Sulawesi after signing the handover of Orangutans Bento and Iskandar on Friday, 4 October 2019.
“The process of translocating Bento and Iskandar to live together in a sanctuary is the initial pilot of the YAD to further contribute to the conservation of endangered wildlife, namely orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), where previously we were more active in the rehabilitation of other wildlife in Sumatra, especially the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae),” remarked Catrini Kubontubuh, Executive Director of YAD.
Iskandar and Bento are quite lucky to be able to return to their homeland. There are still many other orangutans who, until now, are still waiting to return to Kalimantan.