Updates on the Great Orangutan Project based at our rehab and releases centres in Borneo. Thanks to all the volunteers that help us save orangutans in Borneo. Visit www.thegreatprojects.com

Volunteer Visit GOP

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teresa's potential mate and other gibbons

Matang has recently become resident to an adult male Bornean gibbon, named Kiko. A long standing resident at the centre, Teresa, is a female Bornean gibbon, and she has been housed alone for a number of years due to lack of a suitable mate - only a handful of gibbons have arrived at the centre over the years, all female, and female gibbons do not get on well with each other.

After a round of blood tests to check the health of both individuals, Kiko has been moved next door to Teresa, with the bars of a cage separating them to see if they show any affection for each other. The picture below shows the arrangement, though Teresa refuses to pose for our cameras and is hidden at the back of the cage. Kiko is on the right.

They have been living this way for a week now, and to be honest Teresa is not looking very interested. However, it is early days and she has been a bachelorette for a while so we're not writing off the possibility of a partnership just yet.

Just next door, the new gibbon enclosure has been completed and the two smallest gibbons have moved in. Below is a picture of them, but at the time they were hurling themselves around and bouncing off the ropes, so it was hard to catch an image.

This cage is split into three sections, and at the moment these small gibbons have a cage each. They were initially introduced to the same space after residing next to each other in smaller cages for many weeks and showing positive signs of friendship. However, the larger of the two, the male, was so excited to be in the huge space that he frightened the small female and left her a quivering wreck in the corner on the floor! So they are split for now so she has a chance to get used to the new house in relative peace, but there should be no problem with introducing them to the same space in the near future and hopefully a successful partnership will form.

I will attempt to capture some of their joy and acrobatics in a short video and upload it to our facebook group shortly.

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Quarantine cages

In the last few weeks, a new row of cages has been completed in the quarantine area of Matang Wildlife Centre. As past volunteers will agree, this extra space is long over due and a most welcome addition to the centre.

As you can see from the image, this row will soon be filled with long tail macaques. It means some of the smaller cages that were utilised due to necessity have now been retired, which is great. There are ajoining doors between each cage, to facilitate integration of some of the individuals resident at the centre. Socialising these animals improves their mental wellbeing and enriches their lives, as they live in large troops in the wild and have complex social structures.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

All things gibbon

The gibbons at Matang have long been favourites of volunteers and visitors to the centre due to their charming personalities and beautiful features. Gibbons are also apes, though termed ‘lesser apes’, so are close cousins of ours indeed. They are elegant and graceful, with a territorial song that can be heard kilometres away.

In the last few weeks we have received 3 more gibbons at the centre, all full adult and of differing sub species. One, pictured above, is a potential partner for Teresa, who has been a long term female resident at Matang. With gibbons, individuals of the same sex do not get along, therefore the aim is to partner them successfully with the opposite sex. Gibbons are monogamous, and it has been shown that their best chance for rehabilitation is to form successful partnerships, leading to family units. However, as with people, just because there is now a male match for Teresa, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will like each other. The integration process can be long indeed, and we hope they will get along.

The newest arrivals are already a pair, and the keepers hastily welded a temporary holding cage for them in the quarantine area. They are in good health, and obviously are comfortable with each other already, which is great news in terms of potential candidates for rehabilitation.

Volunteers from March 2010 no doubt have very fond memories of moving a few tons of rocks into cages on a very muddy river bank. You were laying the foundations for a new gibbon enclosure, which has now almost been completed. This area was conceived and welded almost entirely by Hillary Kidding, a treasured keeper of many skills who tragically died earlier this year.

It is a huge area, and the one man task of welding obviously took a very long time. It is now being finished off by some extra contractors employed by Forestry. It will become home to most of the 7 gibbons now resident at Matang, hopefully with them living in successful partnerships and enjoying the new space to flex their muscles and practice their aerial acrobatics.
Every volunteer in the past year has contributed to this construction task, whether it was moving rocks, laying a brick or painting one of the many, many steel frames now in place. A big thank you to all of you, on behalf of the gibbons who will soon be enjoying their new home.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Update on the baby sun bear

Unfortunately, the sun bear born at Matang at the beginning of February this year did not make it. It reached around 4 weeks old, at which point the behaviour of the mother changed quite dramatically. For the previous weeks, she had remained in the outdoor enclosure, occasionally coming to the night den area for food but always returning quickly to the den she had created in the enclosure. During the fourth week, her behaviour reverted back to normal – she was spending the nights back in the night den (the door was left open for her) and the day times foraging in the enclosure for food. She showed little interest in the den she had constructed. On the third day of this behaviour, staff and volunteers thoroughly searched the outdoor enclosure for any sign of the cub and could find none.

Though disappointing, it is still hugely encouraging that these bears are displaying successful reproductive behaviour. This female has now had 2 attempts at motherhood, and with just these 2 she already showed a massive improvement in natural behaviour displayed. On the first occasion she didn’t seem to notice that she had given birth, but on the second attempt she built a fantastic den and completely isolated herself from the other bears, which is much more reminiscent of a bear’s natural behaviour.

Bears do seems to require practise to get motherhood right in captivity, and this female certainly seems to be progressing in the right directing. Hopefully her future attempts will see increasing success until there is a healthy, surviving cub here at Matang.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sun bear born at Matang

On Sunday 6th February, a sun bear cub was born at Matang Wildlife Centre. On being released to the outdoor enclosure that morning, mother Gaby made a hasty run for the roots of the large, white tree in the hill enclosure and started digging out a den area immediately. She then gave birth sometime during that day. Keeper Eddie was alerted to extraordinary happenings when he tried to bring this set of bears in that afternoon, noting one was missing. On exploring the outdoor area, he finally located her deep in the roots of the tree, preciously guarding a small, naked, squeaking figure.

This is the second time this bear has given birth that we know of, though her first attempt two years ago was still born. We suspect Gummy to be the proud father, as Gaby and Gummy frequently share a night den each evening. Though Gummy is incredibly old and very frail-looking, he is clearly still full of life!

The pictures displayed here were taken by keeper Eddie Inddris, who was incredibly daring to say the least to approach mother sun bear guarding her cub in her den. The pictures of the cub on its own were taken when Gaby returned to the night den to collect food. She is currently being given the whole outdoor enclosure to herself to enable the cub to have optimal survival chances. We also do not want Gaby to be unnecessarily stressed by the presence of other bears, particularly given the aggressive nature of both the males, Gummy and Wong, in this enclosure.

From the photo above you can see that it is currently about the size of a banana. In a few more weeks this tiny creature will be more recognisable as a bear cub, and we look forward to sharing more images with you all and it grows and develops.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

We are sad to announce that Hilary, our former animal keeper at Matang Wildlife Centre, died on the 30th January 2011 at the age of 38 years. He was reported to have died of acute lung infection. It was a sudden death and a shock to his family and friends. He leaves his wife Christine, and 3 children aged 4, 9 and 11 years. His wife and children is our first concern. Leo Biddle and Natasha Beckerson at Matang Wildlife Centre, are with the family. They will be taking Hilary’s body back to the village. Hilary’s funeral will be on 2nd Wednesday, January 2011. On 3rd Thursday, February 2011, Leo will post an update on the funeral, a tribute to Hilary and our plans to help Christine and the children in the immediate and long term future.

Hilary’s vast experience and immense passion for orangutan welfare made him an ideal candidate for working in orangutan conservation and was therefore taken on by the Great Orangutan Project in late 2007. Since joining the Great Orangutan Project, Hilary has been instrumental in the rehabilitation of young orangutans and release of orangutans at Matang Wildlife Centre. He has also helped train our orangutans by mimicking their behaviour in the wild and getting them to imitate him, for example by building nests in forests for orangutan to sleep in and by climbing the highest trees to forage for food. Hilary is an example to his community that working to protect orangutans is a positive and rewarding endeavor. Many volunteers would have been left amazed by this man. We invite you to remember Hilary and share your stories, pictures and videos about him.

You can also donate to a memorial fund. 100% of your donation will go to his family. Please make your donations to the Red Endangered Animal Connection Trust (REACT).

DONATE here!

Please note: If you are a UK tax payer, REACT can claim gift aid. REACT has committed to pledging all gift aid money to Hilary’s family. That’s an extra 28% of your donation helping the family.

Visit Facebook - Remembering Hilary Group - where volunteers express their love for the man that dedicated his life to helping orangutans.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Animal care students get a taste of the wild side

Tuesday 14th December Oaklands College in St Albans (UK) animal care students swapped the cold, grey winter weather for tales of Borneo as they heard from Head of Conservation of The Great Projects and driving force behind the Great Orangutan Project in Borneo, Leo Biddle (seen in image).

On his first trip back to the UK for three years, Leo delighted and shocked a hall full of students with facts about endangered orangutans and other species such as tigers, gorillas, elephants, chimps and sunbears, which the company helps support through conservation projects. According to the project, without intervention, orangutans could be extinct within the next 20 to 30 years.

Leo Biddle said of the experience: “It’s so important for me to visit colleges in order to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and the key trade problems which affect the existence of many species today.

“When I was younger and studying zoology I remember Jane Goodall visiting my college to talk about her experience in Tanzania and it sparked a fire in me. It suddenly brought the course alive and this is what I wanted to do for Oaklands College animal care students. I hope I have brought their studies to life today and in turn, sparked their interest in the conservation of endangered species.”

Tony Hawkins, Animal Care Manager at Oaklands College, commented: “We knew that today would be inspirational for our students and without exception they were fascinated by Leo’s experiences. He opened up their eyes to the real issues and the delicate balance between third world development and survival of animals in the wild.”

The Great Orangutan Project is always looking for volunteers to experience working life behind the scenes of wildlife centres and help support Borneo’s efforts in protecting the endangered orangutan. To find out more visit www.thegreatprojects.com.

Oaklands College is a large further education college with campuses across Hertfordshire and 10,000 learners. www.oaklands.ac.uk

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Slow loris released

A slow loris, recently surrendered to Matang Wildlife Centre, was successfully released into the surrounding Kubah National Park. The animal was in good health on arrival to the centre and it was deemed in its best interest to return it to the wild.

The slow loris is nocturnal by nature, and this individual was certainly confused by so much action taking place for it during daylight hours. It sat through a 40minute walk through the forest in a carry case to a release site a couple of kilometres away from the centre and human civilisation. On reaching this destination though, it was not too eager to escape its cage and make for the trees.

Most people assume that when an animal is presented with its natural environment, it will quickly run towards its home and freedom. Sadly, this is rarely the case as animals become used to captivity very rapidly and are often reluctant to leave this existence behind. After some lengthy consideration though, the slow loris did indeed step out of the box and, despite its name, make a hasty line for the forest. We hope to catch images of it on the camera traps recently donated to the centre.

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Camera trap donation

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of author Tom McLaughlin, Matang Wildlife Centre now has four new camera traps to add to its inventory. Tom has lived in Kuching for many years, and has a passion for conserving endangered local wildlife life. He has been busy developing revenue streams to assist the efforts of the conservation agents in Sarawak and proceeds from his book, ‘Borneo Tom’, will be donated to Matang Wildlife Centre.

Matang has released many animals, including orang-utan, into the surrounding Kubah National Park. Post release monitoring of any of these animals is not without difficulty, and it is hoped that strategic positioning of camera traps at numerous locations around the park will assist in identifying not just released animals, but also the endemic wildlife present. A large number of cameras will be required to adequately cover the 2100 hectare national park, but Matang now has a good start thanks to generous donors like Tom.

Other donors to this project include Dawn Foote, Heather Mott, Mark Trinham and Fee Crawford. Our huge and continued thanks go out to you all.