Written by Unyil, OuTrop Field Assistant
Right after putting out the fires along the east area of our grid in October last year, it was still important for us to monitor the area to make sure fires did not resume and see what wildlife we could find. I remember searching the area with fellow field assistant, Adul, and coming across a flanged male that was scared and kiss squeaking a lot, but could only travel towards us away from the burnt area. That was the first orangutan we met after the fires.
We then started to search for and follow orangutans again in late November, when the forest was still dry enough that we could search up to 2 kilometers from camp. We followed two flanged males in November and December, but from January until early August, we hardly heard any long calls from flanged male orangutans and followed only one un-flanged male. Only in the past week have we started to hear long calls again regularly, so the males are now potentially coming closer to camp. We don’t know what the case is. Maybe males have moved away from the study area or maybe this is normal for the season and all the males will start flooding back near camp. We will continue to try to search and find males to assess if there is any effect on male presence within the study area post-fire and what effect this could have for the population here.
Since the fires, we have continued to find and follow all of the mother-offspring pairs usually found in the study area: Gracia + Gretel, Feb + Fio, Indy + Icarus, Teresia + Trevor and Indah + Ima. All of the pairs are behaving like they did pre-fire and none seem very frightened with observers. Gracia became pregnant possibly right after or during the fires and had her new baby sometimes in June/July. She used to range in parts of the now burnt east grid, so we think that her home range has become more confined after the fires. Other orangutans may have been forced to relocate their home range after the fires destroyed their home, but we have only met one new mother-offspring pair so far. We will continue to monitor the area, because there are some individuals that we have not observed in months or even years and we do not yet know about their whereabouts. After the fires, there was little or no fruit in the forests for orangutans to feed on. They were feeding on termites, pandanus, leaves and tree bark in the absence of fruit. Now there is some fruit available and it looks like the fruiting season is starting, so that is a good sign that the forest is recovering from a very dry season!