Due to the serious conditions of the pandemic, the Orangutan Conservancy has granted emergency funding to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). The terms of the proposal submitted by SOCP detail use of the funds to be allocated to COVID-19 testing for all staff members to ensure the safety of both staff members and resident orangutans in their care.
This preventative measure is aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 through asymptomatic carriers. The proposal included two separate testing strategies for both of their locations and allocated enough tests until staff are scheduled to receive vaccinations.
In January 2021, The Orangutan Conservancy provided a COVID-19 relief grant to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).
With this grant, SOCP implemented several activities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus among the staff and orangutans at the Sibolangit Quarantine and Rehabilitation Center (SOCP Sibolangit, along with the Jantho Reintroduction Center (SOCP Jantho).
1. COVID-19 screening test for staff members using the COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test.
These tests were carried out once a month for all staff. Along with that, tests were given situationally, such as staff returning from field activities, showing potential symptoms, close contact with others diagnosed with COVID-19, or guests visiting the center for important purposes. Confirmation tests were also implemented (RT PCR Covid-19 and Anti-SARS CoV-2 Quantitative Test) if needed for more precise results or confirmation of the effectiveness of the vaccination shots.
Since the grant has gone through, and Rapid Antigen Tests have become readily available to the facilities, SOCP Sibolangit and SOCP Jantho have gradually returned to more normal activities. These activities include Forest School activities, translocation of wild orangutans, and transferring ex-captive orangutans to the Reintroduction Center.
2. Helped SOCP invest in PPE.
All staff at the facilities continue to use PPE since the pandemic was declared for all activities related to orangutans at the centers and in the field. PPE consisted of gloves, masks, hazmat, disposable gowns, and face shields that are used in both centers and field activities.
3. Government recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and standard influenza vaccinations.
Since the grant, all staff of the SOCP Sibolangit and SOCP Jantho have received the influenza vaccine, FluQuadriTM SH. As of March 2021, most of the staff have also received the COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac. Even with the vaccination of most staff, screening procedures are still a high priority at the facilities due to COVID-19 rates still increasing in the surrounding area.
4. COVID-19 screening tests for orangutans at SOCP sites.
The RT PCR was recommended to use as a screening and diagnostic test for the orangutans. SOCP also collected swab samples from the Nasopharyngeal and Oropharyngeal to keep in the Virus Transport Medium (VTM) on cold chain and sent to the Bogor Primate Research Center – West Java for analysis. The required tests were conducted on new orangutan arrivals in SOCP Sibolangit, orangutans transferred to SOCP Jantho or Jambi Reintroduction Station, orangutans translocated to better habitats (for wild orangutan rescue), orangutans that died with respiration issues, and finally, orangutans that potentially came into contact with staff COVID-19 positive (if any).