Two females released

Helicopter

On August 15th 2002 a team of five appeal members, Sue Sheward, Anne Seviour (Secretary), Lynda and Malcolm Averill (Northern Branch) and Avril Nelson arrived in Sabah, ready to carry out our next Project – the release of two female orangutans into Tabin Reserve.

Tabin is a reserve twice the size of Singapore and where we released King in July 2001. This release was going to be a little bit special as the BBC were filming the whole event for inclusion in their new series Serious Jungle.

When the team landed it was very obvious that there was much to do. The helicopter had to be booked, the transfer cages built, government officials to be seen and a timetable to run the whole operation was needed. Once all this was done it was now time to fly from Kota Kinabalu to Sepilok and get to grips with the relocation.

The two females, Clemantine and Gampia are in their late teens, which is prime breeding age, and have been living in Sepilok’s reserve since their rehabilitation several years ago. Prior to their release it was necessary for them to have a full medical check up to ensure they were fit and well. We were delighted when the “all clear” was given.

The night before the release Dr Sen (Sabah’s Chief Vet) administered a sedative to the two girls so they could be transferred to the carrying cages. Meanwhile the team worked away applying our signage to the cages and the pick-up truck which was to be used to take them from the Centre to the helicopter, in the hope that this would be seen during the BBC filming.

Orangs in cratesIn an effort to reduce the number of people involved in this part of the relocation the team made themselves scarce and was only able to watch the proceedings by lying flat on the ground and peering under one of the Ranger’s huts, not the best view in the world!

The plan was to transport the two orang utans unsedated, as this would ensure they were totally “with it” when they arrived in Tabin. Early next morning the team met up with Dr Sen and made their way to the holding cages. The film crew were already there and waiting for the off. Gampia and Clemantine were not impressed by their new restrictive apartments and made their voices heard above everyone else!

The helicopter arrived on time and they were loaded into the pick-up truck for the short journey to the landing pad, just outside the Centre’s gates. Well, it was not quite a landing pad, it was actually the local football field – but it did the job! There was only two spare places on the helicopter for appeal members and the team were very insistent that Sue should occupy one of them and drew Ann’s name out of the hat to be the second person. Needless to say she was so excited, this was to be an unforgettable experience.

It was vital that the two girls did not suffer any more stress than necessary, they were loaded quickly onto the helicopter and off we went. During the flight, ranger Chris comforted Gampia & Clemantine whilst feeding them bananas and drinks of water. Forty minutes later we arrived at the mud volcano at the core of the reserve. Captain Naru, the Sabah helicopter pilot, skillfully manoeuvred the craft down gently between the towering trees.

Wasting no time the cages were carried to the edge of the rainforest and one at a time the doors opened. Gampia was the first to go. There was no need to tempt her out, she was off with the speed of lightning into the forest and scaled a large tree where Clemantine soon joined her. We waited until they were settled and happily feeding from one of their favourite fruit trees before we returned to the helicopter for the journey back

Throughout the whole project there was an array of indescribable emotions, too many to mention here. Sue and Ann were not the only ones who had to wipe tears from their eyes but at the same time everyone felt elated.

Clemintine walks freeAnother success! We are very proud to have organised, totally funded and carried out this release, and this time it will be seen by thousands of people when the programme is televised over the Christmas period. Our only worry is that the BBC can’t give us full credit for the release as it is against their remit to be seen to promote one single charity! So we need for everyone to spread the word - THE APPEAL DID THIS!

The two girls will now have a life of protected freedom and hopefully they will meet up with King, who was seen to be fit and well, moving through this area only 4 months ago. Once they settle in it is hoped they will soon start to breed with either King or one of the wild males in the area and produce some much-needed healthy offsprings!