Indonesia: ten orangutans released into the wild in Borneo, under threat of coronavirus

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Ten orangutans were transported by helicopter and released to their natural habitat on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. This is the first operation of its kind organized for a year, due to the pandemic which also threatens these primates.

The great apes flew over the thick jungle of Borneo in early February, in order to avoid them the usual long journey by sea and road, which would have exposed them to being contaminated by the coronavirus.

These primates share 97% of their DNA with humans and wildlife protection organizations have therefore been on alert for any sign of infection.

“For a whole year, we were unable to release orangutans into the wild because of the pandemic,” explained Jamartin Sihite, head of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation – BOSF).

“We applied a strict health protocol, and planned plans to be implemented in the event of an orangutan infection. Using a helicopter … helps reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19. “

The ten monkeys, on tranquilizers, were transported in specially equipped cages.

One of the orangutans, no doubt intrigued by the situation, shook one of the bars of his cage.

After the device landed, the monkeys were transferred to a boat for a short crossing before arriving at their destination: the protected forest area of ​​Bukit Batikap, in the province of Central Kalimantan, where they settled. to swing from vine to vine.

Poaching and the loss of their natural habitat decimated Indonesia’s orangutan population, before a potential new danger appeared in the form of the coronavirus.

“If an orangutan is showing signs of difficulty breathing, it is possible that it has been infected with COVID-19,” says Vivi Dwi Santi, a veterinarian who works with the Foundation.

“And if any staff members test positive … we will try to trace which orangutans have been in contact with them.”