F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8

Ibu Cici

Santa Claus

Pak Heppy

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By Morgan Hannah Pettersson
Interview & Photos: Britt ten Have
"It is early morning in Central Kalimantan and the air still holds a whisper of the previous night’s coolness. Soon enough, the heat of the day will arrive and settle like a thick blanket. In the early morning hours, there is an audible rustling among the seedlings at the OFI Herbarium, where the reforestation nursery is located. Moving along the rows of seedlings, a Dayak woman quietly checks on their growth. It is with tender care that Ibu Cici, the OFI Herbarium Coordinator, inspects the seedlings each morning before making her way inside to her office.

A young woman, Ibu Cici has confidence in her career path. Even as a child, she was interested in the rainforest and nature. After being accepted to university, she studied forestry, and an interest in agroforestry developed. Upon graduation, she found jobs in this field to be very limited. She held onto her dream of one day working in the rainforest, and in the meantime, took on a job in the finance department of a car sales company.
Over the next seven years, she kept her eyes peeled for positions within a forestry organization. During that time, she visited Tanjung Puting National Park a few times as a tourist to experience the forest and see orangutans in the wild. One day, her brother, Pak Obi, an OFI employee, alerted her to the job opening for Herbarium Coordinator. Ibu Cici jumped at the chance, applied immediately, and in May of 2017, her dreams came true when Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas offered her the position of OFI Herbarium Coordinator.

As Herbarium Coordinator, Ibu Cici oversees the activities at the herbarium and nursey as part of the Reforestation Project. She coordinates a team of seven staff members who search the forest for seeds and seedlings, propagate and care for the seedlings, and carry out planting sessions at the reforestation sites. Planting trees in the peat swamp under the hot sun, with mosquitos and stinging ants, can be grueling work. But even a fear of snakes doesn’t stop Ibu Cici from supporting her team during planting days. She also maintains the office and herbarium which houses a collection of plant specimens of different tree species. Part of maintaining this growing collection of plant samples involves trips to the National Park, where Ibu Cici collects samples of native growing fruit, bark, and leaves of trees that are part of the orangutan diet..." 
By Philip Stubley
"Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song goes. This time of traditions, gift giving, and cheer is also the time we get to spend with family and loved ones. It was during this time a few years ago that a tiny young orangutan orphan arrived to the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine in the province of Kalimantan Tengah, in Central Indonesian Borneo. Taken in just the day after Christmas, he was appropriately named “Santa Claus.”

A couple years old, he arrived much too skinny for his age, and very scared. No staff could approach him without a defensive nip. The OFI team had their work cut out for them. He eventually settled in, accepting help from caregivers as well as the company of orangutan peers. He wasted no time eating everything he could get his hands on, eagerly guzzling milk and snacking on fruits like rambutans, bananas and mangos. Before long, he started to put on a healthy weight and take more after his namesake! The belly he is busy cultivating is a testament to this. Soon he began to show a resemblance to the “real” Santa Claus!
Santa Claus is a gentle and compassionate orangutan. While he prefers to explore the forest independently, he graciously makes time to socialize. In the midst of his peers playing, he takes the time to sit and look around, nodding with approval at the sight of his friends enjoying themselves. He graduated quickly from Camp Danielle, the “nursey” at the OFI Care Center. He now resides at Pondok Dua, the juvenile camp, where his personality continues to flourish. A natural born leader, Santa Claus knows precisely what he wants to do and follows through. He is already developing and utilising an impressive throat sac. He can sometimes be heard vocalizing at the top of the trees, the grumbling resonating through the forest. His developing throat sac will intensify these sounds in time. When he reaches full maturity, it will help him in communicating with other orangutans.

Santa Claus is always eager to learn and attend forest school. When he spots his caregivers preparing for a daily excursion, he starts shaking the door of his enclosure, full of excitement. In the Learning Forest, Santa Claus loves to wrestle with his peers, tussling and rolling around. If his peers think of disengaging, he reaches out and grabs a hold of them, pulling them back for another round. When he has had enough of this game, he enjoys exploring the forest on his own. Quick as a flash, he disappears into the undergrowth as he heads toward the big trees. Pirouetting from branch to branch, he tests the limits of the shrubbery around him. Spotting trees that have already been blown over by the wind, he bounces up and down on them before climbing right out to the end to sway back and forth. 

Santa Claus also likes to fit in some time to get muddy! He splashes around in the pools of rain water, drenching his face and slurping up mouthfuls of water before spitting most of it back out. He pulls in any orangutan nearby to join in on the fun. He, Tommy and Kobe will cover their faces in mud and merriment. When he needs a rest, Santa Claus likes to check in with his caregivers. He walks over and plonks himself down on the nearest person’s lap. Playfully licking and planting kisses on their faces, he is sometimes lucky enough to be offered a tasty treat like a piece of sugarcane or durian. While enjoying such a snack, he receives spa-like treatment as his caregivers begin to clean his thick hair. This is to no avail as he will promptly retreat to splashing around in the swampy water! Back in the muddy pools, he picks up large old branches and takes big bites out of them, enjoying the crunchy noise they make..."

Interview by Philip Stubley
OFI caregiver, Pak Heppy, has worked for OFI for many years, based for the last four at Pondok Sukun. “I don’t have many stories,” he initially claims. But as he continues talking, he becomes more and more animated as the tales unfurl from his years of experience. The stories all seem to share some of the same components typical to a day in the life at the Orangutan Care Center: forest, mud, orangutans, and a bit of mayhem.

“We were going out to take the orangutans to forest school, and I’m walking with orangutan Penelope on the boardwalk. It’s then that we hear something and we stop. We look up and a large tree branch is falling down toward us. Penelope and I were so surprised, we both jumped together as one into the mud! I was on one side of the boardwalk, and Penelope jumped onto the other. We got wet and muddy all over. Everyone was laughing at us.

“I always remember my first special relationship with an orangutan, Jeffrey, in 1995-96. I took care of him as a baby. His mouth is very big, but he had quite small teeth then. Sometimes, during forest school, he would make his way to one of the local houses. One time we were sitting at a small shelter in the forest. We hear a small sound, a little ‘Oh!’ but we didn’t think much of it, as we were busy watching the orangutans climb during forest school. Then Dr. Galdikas’ assistant, Michelle, came out of the forest, covered in mud, clothes astray, and somewhat upset. She asked ‘Why didn’t you come to help me?’ and I asked ‘What happened?’ Jeffrey apparently had grabbed her to play, and ended up dragging her down into the muddy waters of the swamp! Oh Jeffrey. He was released back to the wild eventually at the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. We followed him for a number of days and then he disappeared, a good release, a success I think.”

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