‘Nyaru’ an eight year old male orangutan will depart Australia on 10 May, travelling with a Perth Zoo veterinarian and zoo keepers to Bukit Tigapuluh, a protected forest in Sumatra.
The animal will spend some weeks adjusting to his new surroundings before being released into the jungle.
Perth Zoo CEO, Susan Hunt, said: “We are incredibly proud that we are the only zoo in the world releasing Sumatran Orangutans into the wild, a program run by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Indonesian Government.”
“Nyaru has been prepared since birth for this momentous occasion and we are confident he has the skills for wild success,” said Susan.
Nyaru’s pre-release preparation is part of Perth Zoo’s Jungle School program and has included the introduction of Indonesian fruits to the animals’ diet, enrichment items to sharpen his foraging skills and access to a large fig tree to increase Nyaru’s fitness and hone his climbing and nest-making skills.
Despite being a solitary species Nyaru has also spent time with other orangutans at the Zoo prior to release.
“This helps develop appropriate social behaviour as he will encounter unknown orangutans when travelling through the jungle.”
“Nyaru has also been fitted with a radio transmitter implant which will help trackers monitor him in the dense terrain of Bukit Tigapuluh,” said Susan.
The orangutan release program is run by the Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Indonesian Government. Since 2003, more than 160 ex-pet trade and orphaned orangutans have been rehabilitated and released into Bukit Tigapuluh.
“Our ultimate goal is for Nyaru to sire offspring, adding genetically diversity to the fragile wild population and helping to repopulate the jungle with this amazing species,” said Susan.
Listed as a critically endangered species, it is estimated that as few as 6500 Sumatran Orangutans are left in the wild. Main threats to the species include habitat loss due to rubber and unsustainable palm oil plantations and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade.