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"Andrena's appearance and personality captivate. At first sight, her long, plentiful hair gives the illusion that she is twice the size of her peers at OFI's Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ) in Central Indonesian Borneo. Her richly-coloured hair seems to flow in all directions, accentuating a certain wild essence in her personality.

There is always excitement in the air when the ex-captive, orphan orangutans leave their sleeping quarters and head to forest school in the morning. Andrena is so eager to explore that she cannot be restrained and runs to the trees. Alert and energized, she scans her surroundings until she spots a tree she wants to climb. Once she is in the canopy, her speed does not slow down. Rather she transfers to quick, agile leaps from one vine or branch to the next. Always busy and on the move, Andrena's next activity might be building a nest for herself.

Andrena is drawn to the freedom of moving high in the canopy, but she is also keen to explore the lower levels of the forest as well. While hanging by one arm onto a vine, she pushes off a tree trunk to swing out into the air. Using remarkable strength for such a little "girl", she swings with momentum for a long moment before, in a single movement, she releases her grip and falls to the forest floor below. When she is in a playful mood, she sometimes repeats this activity over and over again..."

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"What brought a group of every day strangers together in the remote forests of Indonesian Borneo? How did they cope with the challenges? And what did they discover? If you're reading this, chances are you're already a member of Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) or otherwise interested in, and perhaps enchanted by, our red-haired cousins, just as this disparate group of eight people were a year ago. In this interview with members of the 2016 OFI volunteer construction team 'Team Pikul' (named after the Indonesian word for carrying wood, which was the bulk of the team's labour) we discover the true nature of connection.

From different backgrounds and locations, each of us had a strong desire to see for ourselves the magical beauty of orangutans in their own habitat. The only great apes of Asia and now critically endangered; we wanted to immerse ourselves in their world while we still could. And what better way to do that than to actively support the work of pioneering orangutan researcher and conservationist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas through OFI's Volunteer Construction Program? In the end it was a simple decision for each of us - all we did was go to Borneo..."

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Stay connected with OFI

JULY 2017

by John Ward
"At the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ) kind and strong Pak Santo has taken responsibility for the care of the Malayan sun bears which now reside at OFI's Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine in Central Borneo. Pak Santo began working for OFI in 2014, traveling from his home town on the eastern side of Tanjung Puting National Park for the opportunity to work with wildlife.

As a child, Pak Santo ventured into the forest with his friends, relishing the subtle noises of the jungle and the soft light that would stream through the leaves. At the time, the primary rainforest around his house was immense - deep, mysterious, and magical. Playing with his friends and walking through the forest, Pak Santo would sing along with the birds. Sometimes Santo and his friends would come across sun bears. While his friends kept as much distance as possible, Pak Santo quietly and slowly moved towards these great creatures wanting to see them from a closer perspective. Once he started working with OFI he became transfixed by the incredible personalities of the bears under his care as well as their strength and usual gentleness. He felt a strong pull to work closely with these animals and enjoyed being in a forested area that provided the natural shelter and peace he enjoyed as a child.

As a young man, Pak Santo had a job driving a fruit truck, but spending long days on the road did not provide him with the same deep nourishment he had received from nature all of his life. He felt something was missing and longed to return to the natural world. When the opportunity arose to work directly with sun bears at OFI, Pak Santo immediately spotted his calling and jumped at the chance to change the direction of his life."

Santo was initially hired to help with the rehabilitation of two young sun bear cubs at one of OFI's forest release sites in the depths of the forest. Here he lived and walked with the cubs on a daily basis. Santo flourished in the position and loved to spend each day in the forest walking with the cubs. His dedication was unwavering, despite rustic living conditions and long days often with little rest. He worked with two cubs, trying to get them back into the wild. Bear rehabilitation is a difficult process and only one of the cubs was possibly rehabilitated at that time. She disappeared in a rain storm but was already quite independent. She had occasionally separated from her human "walker" before then and had foraged on her own.

After many months in the forest, Pak Santo was transferred to the OCCQ to work with the seven juvenile and adult sun bears there. Aiding in the husbandry of these bears with other OFI staff, Santo learned about the electric fencing of the enclosures, as well as how to feed them, clean their enclosures and prepare enrichment for the bears. In his first few months, Santo was actually quite nervous around the sun bears. While he enjoyed getting closer to these bears in the wild, he was not accustomed to being this close! This was different from walking with cubs in the forest. Being very sensitive to the animals' behaviors, Santo could also tell that the bears weren't exactly welcoming him into the group. But after weeks of consistent closeness to the bears, feeding them, and cleaning inside and near their enclosures, Pak Santo became a trusted caregiver with a familiar smell. (Sun bears rely heavily on their keen sense of smell to detect other animals, people or food nearby.) Undoubtedly, his patience, respect, and love for the bears was also keenly felt...."


"Looking into the calm, unblinking eyes of an orangutan we see, as through a series of mirrors, not only the image of our own creation but also a reflection of our own souls and an Eden that once was ours." -Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, from  Reflections of Eden


THIS WEEK ONLY! OFI has partnered with FLOAT - For Love Of All Things to bring you this limited edition "Saving Orangutans & Forests" t-shirt design. Only available now through Monday August 7th, 8 AM PST. For every shirt sold, FLOAT will donate $8 in support of OFI's programs to protect orangutans and their rainforest habitat. Shop now at www.float.org.