Miskam moves to Tabin reserve Aug 2012

Miskam, Sepilok’s 20 year old male is known to many visitors.  We believe he has fathered many young and is often seen at the feeding platform with his ladies.  At the end of 2011 he decided that life was sometimes more comfortable at the Sepilok Nature Resort lodge which is next to the reserve.  A wild orangutan male had been seen in the reserve and this may have driven Miskam to explore elsewhere.
Buffet breakfast at the lodge was followed by raids on the ice cream cabinet and a glass cake cabinet which he smashed to pieces!  He even located Dr Nigel’s cabin early one morning and stole an Appeal shirt from the washing line which he used as a pillow for his lunchtime nap.  Finally one morning he investigated a water heater, causing more damage and receiving minor burns.   A decision was made that it was time for Miskam’s final release to freedom in the Tabin Forest Reserve – which is the ultimate goal in the rehabilitation process that Sepilok and Orangutan Appeal strive to achieve.
Normally Miskam ranges free in the Kabili Reserve which surrounds the Centre and he would need to be darted to catch him but unexpectedly he appeared in the clinic area and was persuaded to enter a holding cage with a bottle of milk.  This presented the ideal opportunity to move him to Tabin Reserve the next day and would ensure that he was not suffering any effects of sedation after his release.
Miskam had already had a full blood analysis, together with tests for Malaria, Meliodosis, Hepatitis and Tuberculosis when he was in the clinic a week earlier being treated for his burns.  He was given a full clinical examination, was routinely wormed and his weight checked.  He was found to be 50 KG which was 3kg more than when he was recently returned to the forest.   He was now ready for the next stage of his rehabilitation.

The morning of his move dawned bright and sunny.  The journey to Tabin Reserve takes five hours so the transport cage needed to be completely covered with vegetation to shield Miskam from the sun and keep him calm.  He was given fluids to drink and at 9.30am ranger Elis, James Robins ( primatologist) and I climbed into the Land Rover for the long drive.  Throughout the journey we made frequent stops to check on his condition and offer him food and water.  After three and a half hours we turned off the road onto a rough rutted and very bumpy track through a plantation.  After an hour we finally saw the forest in the distance which would become Miskam’s new home.  However, our journey was still not over and the track narrowed as we drove deep into the forest over deep gullies and past waterfall until finally reaching the Post Release Monitoring jungle camp. 
We were met by our Post Release Monitoring (PRMP) Research Assistants, Lineker and Geeko, who were going to track Miskam into the forest after his release to ensure he was coping well.  The Land Rover was reversed into the edge of the dense jungle, far from human habitation.  After a quick veterinary check Miskam was far too excited to bother with the drink he was being offered and angrily grabbed a couple of bananas.  The cage door was lifted and without hesitation he leapt from the cage into the forest and hurriedly climbed up into the trees.

Immediately at ease, Miskam surveyed his new home from the top of the canopy.  After a while he moved a little further into the forest before spending half a hour feeding on a termites nest which he devoured as if it were a great delicacy, before pulling the bark from the tree trunk to drink the trapped water.  Miskam’s instant ability to be able to forage filled everyone with the sense of awe.

Miskam moved off further into the forest and the release team attempted to follow him through dense undergrowth but after a few hundred yards had to call a halt and return to the track.  The exhausted release team still had a long journey through the evening to get back to Sepilok.  Miskam was tracked closely by the PRMP team until he finally nested at 6.30 pm leaving the trekking team to extricate themselves from the jungle in the darkness.  Next morning was an early start and the team spotted him waking in his nest at 5.30 am and tracked him all day.  He was moving high in the canopy across difficult terrain which the team were struggling to keep up with.  Miskam was showing signs of being agitated at the team’s presence and it was at this point that James felt secure in the knowledge of Miskam’s ability to survive and establish himself as a dominant male in the Tabin Reserve.

Two weeks later, Miskam was spotted by the team still deep in the forest.  Hearing the team approach he gave a warning “kiss squeek” noise before appearing in the trees.  Unconcerned he exchanged looks with James and his team before the two parted company, each happy that the other was not threatened.