PRESS RELEASE : Sumatran orangutan rescued from isolated trees in Tripa peat swamps, Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra.

Sumatran orangutan rescued from isolated trees in Tripa peat swamps, Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra.

From : Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP)

17th November 2016

Wednesday, November 16th 2016, an isolated young female Sumatran orangutan was rescued by a team from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) and the Aceh Conservation Agency (BKSDA Aceh) of Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, from a tiny fragment of forest surrounded by palm oil in the Tripa peat swamps, part of the world renowned Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

Located in a palm oil plantation near the village of Gelanggang Gajah (Kuala Batee sub-district, Aceh Barat Daya district, Aceh province) the orangutan first had to be captured from the tree tops by the team, which included SOCP veterinarian drh Pandu Wibisono and SOCP Operations Manager Asril, using an anaesthetic dart fired from a specially designed rifle. The task was made easier, however, by the fact that there were only 4 small trees for her to hide in, all other surrounding vegetation being 4 year old oil palms, only a few metres high.

On being successfully darted at around 11.00am, and then caught in a net as she fell from the tree she was in, she was found to be around 7 years old and weighing only around 20kg, a clear sign of her malnutrition due to having almost no natural food available.

As Asril commented, “normally we don’t want to capture wild orangutans but in exceptional circumstances we feel we have no choice. In cases where we know the animal is going to die or be killed if we don’t get them, then of course we do our best to get them out of there and move them to somewhere safe. This young female, who we’ve now named ‘Zaskia’, was already raiding farmer’s crops, and even eating young palm oil seedlings in an attempt to survive. That’s certainly not their natural diet, but it’s all she had to try and survive on, and if we hadn’t got her out of there soon the villagers would almost certainly have killed her for the damage she’s been causing.”

Once safely sedated and in the net the team performed routine medical checks and transferred Zaskia to a specialist transport cage ready and waiting on a pick-up truck 2km away from the capture site.

“Despite being obviously undernourished there were no signs of any other major medical problems,” stated drh Pandu Wibisono, SOCP veterinarian. “That being the case we left at 14.00 and took her straight to the SOCP’s orangutan reintroduction centre in Jantho, Aceh Besar, in a strictly protected Nature Reserve with abundant natural food in the forest, where she will join over 90 other orangutans already released there,” he added.

Dr Ian Singleton, Director of the SOCP also commented, “capturing free living wild orangutans  goes against the logic of the conservation goals we are trying to achieve, to keep as many wild orangutans living free in their natural habitat as we possibly can. But in cases like Zaskia’s, where we know she will be killed we really have no choice but to try and help them. Fortunately though, we are also reintroducing confiscated illegal pet orangutans back to the wild in Jantho, the aim being to establish an entirely new genetically viable and self-sustaining wild population of this Critically Endangered Species. Whilst its always sad that we have to capture and rescue wild orangutans like this one, the up side is that she is now joining the new population, she will probably live a long life in the wild there and hopefully she will produce several infants during her lifetime, making a major contribution to the new population being established in Janthoand therefore the long term survival prospects for her species! That’s something she would not have done if she’d stayed where she was.” He stressed.

Genman Hasibuan, S. Hut. MM, Head of BKSDA Aceh added, “Sumatran orangutans are a legally protected species in Indonesia, with fines of up to Rp 100,000,000 and prison terms of as much as 5 years for anyone caught killing, capturing, keeping, or trying to sell one. We have already prosecuted a number of people over the last few years and will continue to do so if the illegal capture and killing of orangutans does not stop. We hope these prosecutions will act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of capturing or killing an orangutan and for anyone who is offered one as a pet.” He emphasized.

The Tripa peat swamp forests and the Leuser Ecosystem in which they lie have both been in the news regularly over recent years. Tripa came to the worlds attention in 2012 when huge fires ripped through large scale oil palm plantations, devastating local biodiversity and releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmospehere. These events led to several legal challenges against the companies by local NGO’s and by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment, resulting in large fines and prison terms being handed out to the offenders. The 2.6 million hectare Leuser Ecosystem is also the subject of a civil lawsuit against Indonesia’s Ministry of Home Affairs and the Governor and parliament of Aceh province, due to fact that despite it being a National Strategic Area under National Law, which then requires its inclusion in all levels of spatial land use plan, it is not mentioned at all in the Aceh provincial spatial land use plan a fact that both National and provincial government already acknowledge renders the plan an illegal document.

Local NGO’s and environmentalists are now pushing the central government to ensure that all fines and prison terms related to the Tripa peat swamp palm oil companies are now enforced and carried out. They are also eagerly awaiting the outcome of the civil lawsuit against the Aceh spatial land use plan, originally due on November the 8th but then postponed until the end of the month.

Additional Information :-

  • The Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) is a different species from its Bornean relative (Pongo pygmaeus).
  • The Sumatran orangutan is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as a ”Critically Endangered Species” on its Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Surveys by the SOCP suggest only around 14,600 Sumatran orangutans survive in the wild today.
  • All orangutans are fully protected under Indonesian National Law UU No 5, 1990 on the Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems.
  • The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme is a collaborative programme implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Directorate Jenderal Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam dan Ekosistem (Ditjen KSDAE), the Indonesian NGO Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari, and the Swiss based NGO PanEco Foundation.
  • Since 2001 the SOCP has reintroduced over 180 confiscated illegal pets to the wild at the edge of the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi Province and over 90 in the forests of Jantho, Aceh Besar, establishing two entirely new wild populations of this critically endangered species.


Contact :-

Dr Ian Singleton. Director SOCP,Tel : +62 61 4514360 / +62 811 650493, Email :

Genman Hasibuan, S. Hut. MM. KepalaBalaiKSDA Aceh, Tel : +62 812 86319877, Email :

Asril, SSi.  SOCP Operations Manager, Tel : 0813 70233052, 0821 65417394, Email :

drhPanduWibisono. SOCP Veterinarian, Tel :+62 813 17868372, 0857 11243212, Email :

Photos :- can be downloaded here 

B. zaskia rescue

Suggested captions below. Taken by the SOCP team during the capture and rescue of the female orangutan, Zaskia.


drh Pandu (left) dan Asril (centre, brown teeshirt) checking the physical and medical condition of the orangutan immediately after capture.


drh Pandu undertaking medical checks in the field.


Asril and Zaskia before placing her in her transport crate for the journey to the SOCP reintroduction centre in Jantho.


About iansingletonsocp

Orangutan conservationist, former zookeeper and field researcher.

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