Tom released

Tom In Box 1

As we travelled out to Sabah in April, I didn’t realise that we were about to make history again!

Our latest project was to relocate an orangutan who had been raiding a nearby village, risking being shot, and was currently being held at Sepilok.

Tom King, was about 28 years old, a full cheek padded, wild born male. Not a happy one at that, as he wanted out!

Whilst waiting for his relocation Tom spent his time in a holding pen where he showed his wild aggression to the rangers. It was very obvious that he needed to have a large, uninhabited area of forest, Tabin would be perfect!

Last time a male orangutan (King) was released by helicopter, he was sedated. Imagine my surprise when Dr Sen, the Chief vet, announced that he thought we should take Tom awake! I had visions of Tom breaking out of his travelling compartment and causing mayhem on the flight.

Stress levels were high, then I received word that the assistant Minister for Wildlife had decided to accept my offer to accompany us on the release. Oh Good!

The night before the relocation Tom was sedated whilst he was given a full health check and prepared for travelling.

Bright and early next morning we arrived at the Centre expecting Tom to be creating but he quietly sat watching our every move. I fed him bananas and water, which he happily took, and then it was time for the “off”.

The Minister arrived on the helicopter, we loaded Tom quickly and took up our seats, feeling extremely nervous and saying a little prayer to ourselves. Fingers were tightly crossed when the helicopter sprung into life.

Tom didn’t make a murmur or a move during the 40 minute flight to Tabin, he just gazed out of his window, quietly watching what was going on.

Tom gets out of the boxArriving at Tabin we wasted no time in unloading his crate and then opened the door and stood back, expecting a very angry orangutan to appear. NOTHING HAPPENED!

The Minister looked as confused as we were. Ellis, one of the rangers went over to the crate to check Tom was OK and patted him gently on the shoulder saying “you are free Tom, you can go”.

Surprisingly, Tom was in no hurry. He popped his head up and had a good look round at his new home, and at us. After several minutes slowly Tom decided this place would do and climbed out of the compartment and ambled gently away in to the forest and up a large tree.

We stayed with Tom whilst he made his lunchtime nest and had a snooze and when we were completely happy he would be fine we returned to the Centre.

The Minister thanked me for allowing him to be part of the release and his words brought a tear to my eye. He said “This was a wonderful experience, on that will stay with me for the rest of my life!”.

The Ministers words mirrored what we all felt but we had the added pride of knowing The UK Appeal Did it Again!