The forest school facility is a piece of lush/prestige/indigenous forest surrounded by a fence where the orangutan can practise all their forest survival skills. This is the last step in the rehabilitation process before release.
The orangutans need to go to Forest School during the rehabilitation process to gradually get familiar with the natural forest environment and be able to truly master all skills that are needed to survive in the wild. Skills that the orangutans need to learn during forest school include finding their own food, moving between trees, making nests, etcetera. This is carried out under the supervision and guidance of specialized SOC staff that importantly, are dedicated and love orangutans. Every day the keepers/caretakers join the orangutans to forest school and stimulate the orangutans to develop their forest skills by climbing in the trees with the babies, or pulling food up in the trees to motive them to climb. In addition to that they collect data about the behaviour of the orangutans which is then analysed by our behaviour scientist/biologist to analyse their readiness for release or further rehabilitation approach.
The best way to optimise their forest skills is to have a real forest to practice in. Learning how to find your own food, know what is edible, how to get food like honey out of a bee hive without getting stung or how to make nests in any kind of tree for various weather circumstances, but also climbing from one tree top to the other and estimate the strength of branches is all very hard to learn without real trees and a real forest. Therefore a regular enclosure is not sufficient to prepare the orangutans for release, thus a forest school is a lot more effective and a must during rehabilitation.
Aside from the fact forest school is a very effective way of learning forest survival skills it also reduces the stress and depression of orangutans compared to conventional enclosures. Furthermore the forest school enables reduction in human contact-keepers in particular.
This forest school is located in Tembak, around 70 km Southern and take about 3 hours from the facilities in Sintang. On the road from Sintang to Tembak, hours of palm oil plantation destruction pass before coming to this village that already many years stands strong against the pal moil and does everything to prevent the palm oil come in. SOC was given permission of the villagers of Tembak to use this piece of forest as a practising ground for orangutans from SOC. We have also started the Masarang Foundation activities in Tembak to support them in protecting their area by providing potential alternatives income source for palm oil and because they have the spirit to fight for their forest.
Jerora is an ideal location for a second forest school. It is over 4 Hectares of pristine forest with similar vegetation to their original habitat. The land is owned by father JaquesMaessen’s (Co-founder of SOC and founder and Chaiman of the KOBUS foundation which means there is no need to invest any capital in buying the land.
Next to using this land for a “forest school” to rehabilitate orangutans that can be released, it will also provide the opportunity to use a part of the area for a forest enclosure that can be used as a “sanctuary”. A sanctuary for those orangutans that are less fortunate and will not be able to be released due to reasons such as: incurable diseases, physical disability, psychological difficulties to adjust to the natural life, etc.
For orangutans that cannot be released it is not harmful to be more exposed to and get used to seeing people from a safe distance. For that reason a sanctuary will be ideal for educational purposes to create awareness and be able to give visitors the opportunity to see orangutans from a distance in the forest without harming their wellbeing or disturbing their sanctuary forest life. Since education and awareness is a very important aspect that needs to be considered to be able to put an end to the hunt of orangutans and also to get people on board to focus on saving the orangutan and the forest.Jerora is only 5 km from Sintang and therefore is also more accessible for educational purposes.
The forest school in Jerora will be similar to the one that has already been built in Tembak. Jerora’s forest school contains 4 hectares where we plan to make 2 forest enclosures, each of 2 hectares. Each forest enclosure will be suitable to house 5 adult orangutans and 2 -3 babies. With these enclosures we have the opportunity to immediately improve the quality of life of 12 orangutans and after every release more orangutans can move on to this step in rehabilitation.