One day in March, before the Covid19 pandemic situation happened in Indonesian Borneo, Azis and Jali (two of BNF’s orangutan researchers) trekked through the Sebangau Forest in search of Gracia and the Kids (wild orangutan). But by late afternoon none of the family could be found, so they decided to return to base camp and try to search for these elusive red apes on another day soon.
Azis arrived back home in his village around 4pm, only an hour later he received a call from camp.
“Hello Azis, there is an orangutan who has built a sleeping nest right next to camp. She is female and has a child,” said Lis, base camp’s Kitchen Coordinator.
After ending the call, Azis together with Jali quickly prepared their forest equipment and headed straight back to camp. That night they slept in camp ready to follow the orangutans early the next morning.
Before the sun came up, Azis and Jali started their search for the orangutans near camp. It did not take a long time to find the individuals. It was Georgia with her 1 year old child! The team have not yet been able to see if the youngster is male or female, so this orangutan doesn’t currently have a name, but many other team members call it Gus.
“We trekked a long way to find you Georgia, but you came to us, “Azis said to Georgia.
Georgia had built a sleeping nest in a Rambangun (Tetractomia obovata Merrill) tree with a height of 10-15 meters. Rambangun trees are one of the orangutan’s favorite trees for nesting. As well as this species, they also like Bintan/Peter-Peter (Licania splendens), which are often used for nests.
Azis and Jali watched Georgia and Gus in the dark and misty forest. The sound of birds and gibbons singing their beautiful morning songs surrounded them as the forest began to wake up. After Georgia and Gus came out of the nest, Azis and Jali immediately followed their movements towards the west of camp.
While seeing Georgia eating Papong fruit (Sandoricum beccanarium), locally also known as Katapi Hutan, Azis and Jali opened the food prepared by Lis.
“Georgia, let’s have breakfast together. You eat Papong fruit, I’ll eat rice and vegetables,” Azis said.
Papong fruit has red skin with white flesh. The texture of the fruit is like mangosteen, soft and seeded, it tastes slightly sour mixed with a little sweetness.
While having breakfast, Azis watched the youngster learning to taste food eaten by Georgia. Although not yet brave enough to eat the fruit, the young orangutan sniffed and licked the Papong out of curiosity. Most of the food intake is obtained from the mother’s milk.
After they all finished breakfast, Georgia with her baby holding on tight, continued to move west. Georgia began to travel, around 600-700 meters, outside of her home range, most likely due to limited and sparse food resources.
After the 2015 forest fires, many fruiting trees were burnt down reducing food resources in the forest. On the east side of camp there is little food and the orangutans are now spending more time on the west side. The west has many forest fruits which are favourite foods for orangutans and several other primate species.
The team continued their journey to follow Georgia and her youngster until they nested in a tree in the late afternoon. During the day, Georgia seemed relaxed and did not move quickly. She would spend an hour or so in one place and then would move on in search of more food. Enjoying the fruits the forest provides and the freedom of the wild.
This is a typical day in the life of a wild orangutan and of an orangutan researcher!
Written by Azis (BNF Orangutan Project Coordinator) and Yohanes Prahara (BNF Content Creator)