Orangutan News: Challenging return to wild for formerly blind Sumatran orangutan

Gober

A formerly blind orangutan mother of twins was returned to a life in the wild in Aceh, Sumatra Indonesia as part of the work of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).  The release of Gober took place in the conservation forest of Jantho, in Aceh, Indonesia.

Gober’s release was only possible due to groundbreaking cataract surgery in 2012 that restored her eyesight.   The twins are totally unique as they were born to parents who were both blind. Their father Leuser, who we wrote about in 2014 on the Orangutan Conservancy news site, lost his eyesight when he was shot at least 62 times with an air rifle.

Sadly, the plan to release Gober and both of her twin infants together did not work out as hoped. All three were released at the same time, but Ganteng did not take well to the forest environment and Gober struggled in the trees with two infants to watch out for. It was not long before she seemed to give up trying, and poor little Ganteng was left behind.

Gober and Ginting coped perfectly well, travelling through the canopy, finding food and building a huge nest for the night, little Ganteng spent his first night in the forest alone and afraid, cold and wet.

The following day, after seeing that his mother and sister where not coming back for him, SOCP staff were able to give Ganteng food and managed to usher him back to the safety of the onsite cages later that afternoon.

Speaking from Jantho on Wednesday, Dr. Ian Singleton said “The last couple of days have been an emotional roller coaster ride, for all of us but especially for Ganteng, and presumably for Gober and Ginting too. No one believed she would leave one of her twins behind, at least not so soon after release. We’re all a bit stunned at just how quickly it happened. Gober and Ginting are doing fine and it remains to be seen if they will try looking for Ganteng again or not.  In the meantime the most important thing is that all of them are safe.”

Video of the release can be seen in the post above.

Gober was originally rescued by the SOCP from an isolated patch of forest surrounded by palm oil plantations in 2008. As she was blind, she was raiding farmer’s crops to survive and would surely have been killed if left where she was. She was then cared for at the SOCP orangutan quarantine centre near Medan, North Sumatra.

Leuser, the father, will soon call Orangutan Haven home.  Orangutan Haven is being built by SOCP as a semi-wild home for unreleasable orangutans.

The Orangutan Conservancy helps to support the work of SOCP.

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