Archives: October 2015

Phenology of Lembu

October 27, 2015. Posted in Article

As always, weather permitting in Borneo, we had to wait for the rain to stop before we set off on our trip to Lembu from Camp Lesik. It was time to collect monthly phenology data at Lembu, and we would be spending two nights in a basic camp by the river. Phenology is a branch of ecological science that studies the timing of recurring biological events in plants. In Kehje Sewen forest, phenology data is collected monthly during which Post Relase Monitoring (PRM) team records when the plants flower, produce fruit, etc. One of the purposes of phenology data collection is to determine when and where we should release orangutans.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but we packed bags full of rice, noodles, tinned sardines, snacks and much needed logistics.

Eventually, when the rain stopped Rusda, Handoko and I set off for our temporary camp. We began walking along the road towards the river, and then when we eventually made it to the river it was socks off and trousers rolled up – we were going in! The camp was not too far, but with the zig-zagging across the river along with balancing all our belongings on our back it took a lot more time.

Feeling through the water with our feet to make sure we had a sturdy enough rock to step onto, I only knew it was a matter of time before I fell in. The water was not too high, Rusda had told me that sometimes they have had to wade through the river chest deep, this time for us it only just reached the top of our legs.

FOTO 1 menyebrangi sungai lembu by handoko

Part of the journey was broken up with small tracks alongside the river, and this is where I was re-acquainted with the many leeches! Without the protection of my football socks over my trousers, the slimy creatures found it a perfect opportunity to latch on to my feet and legs as we marched through the damp undergrowth. Despite the leeches (which I decided I would rather have wet socks than having to find another latched on to me), this was a part I particularly enjoyed. Strong smells of tropical plants, every now and then a musty animal scent which only made you wonder which animals regularly made the trip to the river’s edge when we were not around. Eventually, after slicing our way through beautiful scenery and ducking and weaving through vines, we made it to Camp Lembu.

FOTO 2 camp feno lembu by lucy A

The camp was a scaffold of logs and trees, all in place for tarpaulin to be attached and rice sack beds to be made. After an afternoon coffee, the camp began to take shape (with thanks to Rusda and Handoko) and soon enough once the shelter was over our heads our home was ready for the next two nights.

We settled for a meal of tinned sardines in tomato sauce with rice and waited for the night to close in around us. The great thing about the forest is you can tell the time by the sounds, right on cue the 6 o’clock cicada started its piercing call cutting through the blend of other sounds. Once it was night, there was not much else to do other than get comfortable and fall to sleep as the nocturnal forest awakes.

Waking up at 5:45 am in the forest is easy with the buildup of different sounds pulling you out of your deep sleep. We had breakfast, and prepared the data sheets and ourselves for a long day ahead. Marching through the trees and jumping over fallen logs, we reached the phenology trail and began to record the data on young leaves, flowering trees, ripe fruit and unripe fruit. We were two hours into our task when in true rainforest style; the skies opened above us and down came the rain. This made it difficult to record data and to look up at the trees so we waited again for the rain to stop.

FOTO 4 tim feno lembu by rusda

When the rain slowly began to lift, we continued our data collection. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. Up and down hills, hanging onto vines to help abseil down the side of hills, using the vines to help climb up and always being aware not to grab onto the spikey rattan for support!

Every now and then we would hear crashes in the trees and the work would freeze, all looking to see if an orangutan had come to check out what we were doing, unfortunately not this time. After the data was collected, we headed back to camp the way we came which seemed so close when we were not looking at the trees! Getting back to camp and having a refreshing wash in the river was much needed, and we again settled to the sound of the 6 o’clock cicada and eventually fell asleep.

Gibbons woke me the next morning, chorusing their songs to one another and it was fantastic! As we were cooking up breakfast, two gibbons trapezed their way over to us and stopped above the camp as if to see what we were up to. After they had satisfied their curiosity they left us as quickly as they joined us – returning to their morning songs.

This day was the beginning of a new section of phenology, and this was a steep one! We climbed up and down, up and down, following the phenology trail and hunting for tags. One fantastic part of the trek was an opening in the canopy. A landslide had taken dozens of trees with it, causing a gap which opened up to the most fantastic view. You could hear the hornbills clearly, look across to see the thick roof of the forest on the opposite hill… accompanied with a welcoming breeze – a view you seldom get when trekking through the undergrowth, a whole different world.

Scrambling around to the other side, we had to find the continuing trail. Luckily Handoko and Rusda know the forest well and can duck, weave, and climb their way through the trees with ease which definitely speeded up the process of regaining our trail. After persistent work collecting data, batting away bees, flicking off leeches and brushing off ants… we finally finished what we set out to do. We headed back to camp, to collect our things and make our way back to base Camp Lesik. The walk back was beautiful… the sun was shining and lighting up the top of the water, amplifying the colours of the bright and beautiful dragonflies that darted across the surface then suddenly stopped statue like on a shimmering log or rock.

FOTO 5 pengambilan data fenologi by handoko

It felt good to get back to base camp, we were all pretty tired and we’re looking forward to a well-deserved wash and clean clothes. All in all, a successful, beautiful, exciting and exhausting phenology trip to Lembu!

Text by: Lucy, PRM Volunteer in Camp Lesik, Kehje Sewen Forest

You can support our team and its monitoring activities too. Donate now to the BOS Foundation and keep our spirits high!

A Month of Experience in the Kehje Sewen Forest (2 – Finish)

October 20, 2015. Posted in Article

Time really does go quickly when we are having fun! Without my realising it, 15 days had soon passed since my arrival at Camp Nles Mamse in the south of the Kehje Sewen Forest. Therefore, it was time for me to move on to Camp Lesik in the northern part of the forest. I had never been there before, so this was an opportunity I did not want to miss.

However before Camp Lesik, I had to return to Muara Wahau, to shop for logistics for 3 days and to join another team there. For the journey, I had the Camp Lesik coordinator, Muhamad Rusda Yakin and technician, Awal Choirianto for company. In Muara Wahau, we joined vets Hafix and Moris from Samboja Lestari, along with some foreign volunteers who were going to help conduct PRM and renovate Camp Lesik’s sanitary facility.

My trip was full of surprises. After dropping logistics back at Camp Nies Mamse, our car broke down about 800 meters away from the camp, just after sun set.  And in the growing darkness, we could hear the sound of a growling sun bear!

We struggled to keep our composure and finally it paid off. We restarted the car and managed to drive all the way to Pelangsiran. Once there, we encountered another steep ridge and a sling river crossing; I had to swing across the river in the dark. It felt like an endless adventure to me. That night it was too late to reach camp and we stayed at Pelangsiran, a small transit settlement on the outskirts of Kehje Sewen Forest.


The next morning we began what turned out to be an exhausting hike to Camp Lesik, due to unpredictable road conditions. But all of my fatigue suddenly disappeared when I got there. A beautiful range of hills, lots of fresh air and the echoing sound of hornbills welcomed us. I love it there!

At Camp Lesik, the team had the task of evacuating Lesan. She had been released into Kehje Sewen in 2012, but recently she had been spending a lot of time around camp. That day, we spotted Lesan together with Hamzah, close-by. This meant we had to adjust our plan and evacuate both Lesan and Hamzah to Peapung, about 1 km away from Camp Lesik.

The next day, Lesan was still with Hamzah near the camp area. Later in the afternoon, at approximately about 2.30pm, an evacuation team consisting of Rusda, vet Hafiz, Moris, Arif, Pak Ramli, Rizal,and Handoko finally succeeded in tranquillising and then carrying both Lesan and Hamzah to Peapung.  To reach Peapung the team had to carry the heavy transport cages containing Lesan and Hamzah across a fast flowing river.  The team are used to navigating difficult terrain and continued without incident.

As with any normal release, we conducted observations and followed the two orangutans until they nested before dark.  Unfortunately heavy rain fell that night, and we had to postpone the next day’s patrol due to a flooded river that was impossible for us to cross.

Soon, with all tasks completed, it was time for me to go back home to Jakarta.

On the way home, we dropped by Samboja Lestari, which was unfortunately subjected to a large forest fire for days. We arrived on the 25th September at dawn to find that the fire was still burning! However, with pride I can say that our motto became “This event, no matter how bad, will never bury our spirit”.

It has been an extraordinary experience for me working and living for a month in Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan. There are no words such “weary” or “tired” in our vocabulary because we are determined to ensure a better life for orangutans and preserve nature for the future.

Text by Rika Safira, RHOI PRM Staff

You can support our team and its monitoring activities too. DONATE NOW to the BOS Foundation and keep our spirits high!

A Month of Experience in the Kehje Sewen Forest (1)

October 13, 2015. Posted in Article

My name is Rika Safira and I am 24 years old. I had been working for Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI) for 8 months before the opportunity arose to accompany our joint BOSF/ RHOI team on an orangutan release in August. This was an experience I had long waited for.

Together with colleagues from the Bogor headquarters, we set off on August 26, 2015. After landing at Sepinggan Airport in Balikpapan, we continued straight on to the BOS Foundation Orangutan Reintroduction Center at Samboja Lestari and picked up technicians from the center who would join the team in the Kehje Sewen Forest.


This year’s release was to be conducted in a new area; the southern part of the Kehje Sewen Forest, in East Kalimantan. Presently, releases in the northern part of Kehje Sewen (around Camp Lesik) have been suspended, to allow time for the orangutans released there to settle into their new territories. So for the time being, activities in the northern part focus on orangutan post-release monitoring.

It took 12-hours to drive from Samboja Lestari to Muara Wahau, our last point prior to entering the forest. In this town, there is a small office which the release team use as a transit post; this is where we made some final preparations for the release.

It took us about three hours from Muara Wahau to a point called ‘Jalan Buntu’, or ‘End of the Road’. From that point, we had to walk 600 meters down a super-steep ridge to the riverbank. Our destination – Nles Mamse camp – was located just across the river. We reached the camp at sunset and had to skip the opportunity of enjoying the view, as we needed to prepare dinner and fix a place to sleep before dark.

Jalan Buntu or End of The Road

- tanjakan neraka

During our time at Nles Mamse, we slept in a flying camp – a big open tent with beds made of hessian (rice sacks) tied to wooden poles.

- bed

Living in the forest doesn’t mean we miss out on proper meals: The two cooks that came along with the team worked hard to keep us all very well fed. They always had something to do, whether it be cleaning, cooking or preparing; and there was always food ready to eat. The comfortable feeling of togetherness among the friendly crew made me completely forget there was no internet available!

- good food, good peoples

Initially, we were scheduled to conduct the release on the August 29-30. However, due to a variety of factors we were not able to do so until September 4. We released five orangutans – Arif, Long, Ajeng, Leoni and Erica – in the southern part of the Kehje Sewen Forest. I was given the privilege of releasing Erica by opening her transport cage; this was such an unforgettable moment for me.

- open the cage of Erica

Immediately after the release, we commenced post-release monitoring. The main task is to observe and document the behavior of released orangutans. We conducted nest-to-nest observations; we packed and left before dawn, looking for orangutan nests and taking notes on their activities every 2 minutes. We did this every single day for a whole month. The purpose of this activity is to ensure that all orangutans released are adapting well to their new environment.

- Monitoring

Look out for the next chapter of my adventure!

Text by Rika Safira, RHOI PRM staff

You can support our team and its monitoring activities too. DONATE NOW to the BOS Foundation and keep our spirits high!