Ten orangutans had their first year of release into the wild, due to the hazards of COVID-19 infection, on Indonesia’s Borneo Island, back into its natural habitat.
The animal was helicoptered over the thick jungle of the island earlier this month to prevent them from being exposed to the coronavirus on days long land and water routes.
Orangutans are 97% of human DNA, making conservationists aware of infection signs. The pandemic has created unprecedented conservation challenges.
“For an entire year, we have not been able to release orangutans due to the global pandemic,” said Jamartin Sihite, chief executive of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF).
“We have implemented strict health protocols, and introduced mitigation plans to be enacted in the event of an orangutan contracting the virus. The use of a helicopter … helps reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.”
Before their flight, the fuzzy-haired animals were sedated by tranquilizers and shuttled in transport cages surrounded by a net.
In the airborne mission, at least one of the animals facing the lungs struck at the metal walls of its cage.
The apes made a short trip by boat before they arrived in the Bukit Batikap Forest, in central Kalimantan, part of Borneo, in Indonesia, where they swinged in wine.
Various apes have also been released in the East Kalimantan forest.
Poaching and loss of habitat died before the coronavirus emerged as a potential threat to the critically endangered species of the Southeast Asian nation’s orangutan populations.
“If an orangutan shows symptoms of respiratory problems, it’s possible that it has been infected with COVID-19,” said Vi Dwi Santi, a BOSF vet.
“Also, if one of the staff tests positive … we will conduct tracing on an orangutan that’s been in contact with them.”