Perth Zoo orangutan to be released into the wild

By AAP with AG staff 14 October 2011
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In a world first, Perth zoo will release a zoo-bred male orangutan in the jungle of Indonesia to help save the species.

A SUMATRAN ORANGUTAN BORN and bred at Perth Zoo will be released into a protected rainforest in Indonesia to help re-establish a population of the endangered species in the wild.

Six-year-old Semeru will become the first zoo-born male orangutan in the world to be released into the wild.

In November 2006, female orangutan, Temara, who was also born and bred at Perth Zoo, became the first ever zoo-born orangutan to be released into the wild. She was tracked and monitored for more than three years while she settled into the wild and is now making her own way in the forest.

Environment Minister Bill Marmion said Semeru would be transferred by air to Indonesia on October 16 and would spend two weeks in quarantine before his release into the Bukit Tigapuluh area in Sumatra.

“Semeru will be closely monitored and supported on a daily basis with two dedicated trackers for two years, and longer if necessary, while he adjusts to life in the forest,” he said.

Orangutan wilderness preparation

The minister said a team of veterinarians, keepers and zoo officials had spent the past year preparing Semeru for his transfer and release.

“Semeru’s pre-release preparation has included the introduction of Indonesian fruits, enrichment items to sharpen his foraging skills and access to a large fig tree to increase his fitness and hone his climbing and nest-making skills,” he said. “Semeru has also been fitted with a radio transmitter implant which will help trackers monitor him in the dense terrain of Bukit Tigapuluh.”

It is estimated that as few as 6300 Sumatran Orangutans are left in the wild. Perth Zoo says orangutans are under serious threat of extinction due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Slow process to save orangutans

Orangutans are the slowest reproducing species in the world with females having their first infant at 15 years and then every nine years thereafter.

Since 1970, 27 orangutans have been born at Perth Zoo.

With the support of the Indonesian Government, the orangutan reintroduction program has released 139 former pet trade and orphaned orangutans into the Bukit Tigapuluh area since December 2002.