Research project update - the Tabin project

Sheena Working

Phase 2 of the post monitoring release project started in March this year with a new group of recently released juvenile orangutans. The aim of the research is to find out how well the rehabilitation process works and if it provides the rehabilitated orangutans with the skills necessary to live wild in the forest and if we need to make any adjustments

These individuals do not know the Kabili reserve, the forest which surrounds Sepilok, and everything is new to them. Those who cope well with their release are destined to spend their lives in the remote and unspoilt reserve of Tabin, which is twice the size of Singapore and far from human habitation – in fact just perfect and will give us great insight into the ability of our rehabilitated orangutans

It has been a busy time for everyone that is involved with the Project. The move to Tabin is planned for the end of July, but there is a lot to do before we can relocate.

The site for the base camp has been chosen and is a 6km walk into the reserve, but it is just a natural clearing so we have to start from scratch. To set up a camp everything that is needed has to be carried in so you can imagine how difficult it is carrying wood 6km into the Bornean rainforest! Not to mention the 1½ hr drive to nearest town!

The first thing we needed to do was make the area accessible by foot. There are several rivers between the edge of the reserve and the camp site which need to be crossed and although some tree trunks act as bridges there are many places where these have been washed away by the floods in the rainy season, so new bridges had to be built. We were also lucky enough to have the Car Phone Warehouse volunteers helping us at this point for which we would like to express out thanks.

The next step was to ensure accessibility by helicopter. This is of paramount importance as this is not only how the orangutans will be transferred to the site, but it is a safety requirement for both people and orangutans in an emergency.

What next? We needed to get the building work started. We were also lucky enough to have the Car Phone Warehouse volunteers helping us at this point for which we would like to express out thanks

Bridge buildingAs I previously mentioned the only way materials could be brought in was either by foot or by helicopter. A helicopter is obviously an expensive option, but for some things i.e. water tanks it is the only answer to reach this otherwise inaccessible place, which is obviously great for the orangutans, but not so good logistically for us.

We are now at the stage where most of the materials needed for the building works are on site. But, expertise was needed and who better than Simon Amos, the proprietor of a local company specialising in jungle survival – Field Skills - and who is now our project manager. He is organising everything from cementing of the foundations to providing showers and toilets for the local workers and research staff and even better he is ensuring it is all done on time. Simon has worked with the Appeal before and has many years of experience and we are very grateful to him for all the help and assistance he is providing us with.

The setting up of the research station will be providing work for the local community and staff are already being recruited. We are hopeful that we will be attracting some grant donations in the UK to assist us in this huge task. We will keep you informed!