Lamandau Nature Reserve, an expired logging concession comprised mainly of peat swamp forest, is prime orangutan habitat in Borneo. It was designated as an official orangutan release site in 1997. The Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) has two camps located in the reserve, Camp Siswoyo and Camp JL., both on its eastern edge close to Pangkalan Bun and Pasir Pajang.
Ms. Eawa is the Manager of Camp Siswoyo and Mr. Edy is Manager of Camp JL. Both Ms. Eawa and Mr. Edy have been with the Foundation for more than three years and bring a diversity of wildlife experience to their jobs. The permanent staff at Lamandau is augmented by a rotation of caregivers from the Orangutan Care and Quarantine Facility (OCCQ). During 2003, 31 orangutans were released at the two camps and two babies were born to ex-captives. Each released orangutan is followed for a period of 14 days to ensure that he/she is adapting well to its new environment.
Beginning in September 2003, an investment was made in improving the infrastructure at the two camps. They now have wells, toilet blocks, food storage houses, and a large dining hall/kitchen was built at Camp Siswoyo. These improvements were funded by the Orangutan Foundation United Kingdom (OF UK).
Rafts made with boards that have been cut from illegal logs line the river that leads to Camp JL. During the dry season, OFI assistants must pull their boats through the shallow water to reach Camp JL by river (click to enlarge)
Only 100 yards from Camp JL, illegal loggers tie their wood into rafts for the trip down river (click to enlarge)
Unfortunately, as in Tanjung Puting National Park (TPNP), illegal logging and agricultural encroachment threaten the integrity of the reserve. Following the military deployment to TPNP, it appeared that a large number of the illegal loggers who were evicted from TPNP moved into Lamandau. The speed with which the loggers established themselves and created logging rails leading into the Lamandau River was truly frightening. Compounding the tragedy was the fact that the loggers were taking out undersized trees of relatively poor quality that would just be used locally for construction purposes. The environmental destruction exacted by the illegal loggers’ action brought very little in financial return to the loggers, but had great effect on the area and could possibly lead to irreversible damage in certain sections of the Reserve.
The Foundation response required time, effort, and financial resources, which were used to control the problem and subsequently evict the loggers through police patrols. Starting in October 2003, OFI and OF UK, supported a month-long police patrol using police special forces. In the first two weeks the police warned the loggers that they had 14 days to leave. In the last two weeks, the police evicted anyone who tried to stay. Overall, more than 60 illegal loggers were removed from the area. This action led to a couple of tense situations, and in one instance the illegal loggers tried to barricade the river mouth. Fortunately, the police were very committed and pointedly reminded the loggers that at least they were only told to leave the premises and cautioned them not to make a bad situation worse. They were in fact illegal loggers and were lucky that they were not arrested.
At the end of the month, in cooperation with the local forestry department under whose auspices Lamandau falls, a guard post was built at the river mouth. This post will be staffed by forestry rangers, police, and OFI staff. It should prevent loggers from returning to this part of the reserve and enable OFI to, once again, concentrate on its orangutan rehabilitation and release program.
In 2004, the Foundation intends to build a third orangutan release camp and increase the rate of releases. This will hopefully set a trend that will see an annual decrease in the captive orangutan population in the OCCQ.