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A BREATHTAKING RIVER CROSSING

We have an exciting update about mother orangutan Sayang and her daughter Padma. Our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team from Camp Lesik observed them in the Kehje Sewen Forest in East Kalimantan.

When our PRM team from Camp Lesik recently set off for a day of observations, they found that young Padma had also risen early and started her day as she was actively playing and eating young leaves. Several times, she approached mother Sayang, who was released nine years ago, as though inviting her to join in the eating. However, Sayang looked disinterested and lazed around while watching Padma from the comfort of her nest.

Sayang with her daughter Padma before their true adventure began.

It was not until noon that Sayang got up and went searching for some lunch. Clingy Padma immediately grabbed her mother’s hand and followed. Both moved toward an area with plenty of available foods and where Sayang ate young shoots, forest citrus fruits, palm fruits, cassava, and grass.

After eating, the mother-daughter pair travelled to the banks of the Pehpan River. Sayang drank from the river as she dangled upside down from an overhanging branch while Padma, who was also thirsty, seemed to motion to her mother for some water. To our team’s surprise, Sayang sipped the water up through her lips and spat it into her daughter’s mouth.

After finishing some cassava, Sayang disappeared into a thick clump of bamboo and climbed up it. Long, strong, and bendy, bamboo is often used by orangutans to cross rivers, which was obviously the pair’s intention. But it should turn out much more exciting than expected. 

It started with Padma, who usually clung to her mother’s side, coming down and attempting to cross the river herself. 

However, her arms were not long enough to grab a branch from the other side of the river, so Sayang helped her by bending a few lengths of bamboo further across to help lessen the gap. Finally, with the assistance of her mother, Padma managed to catch onto the branch and cross the river. 

Sayang is about to cross the river with the help of a bamboo stem.

Next, it was Sayang’s turn. Slowly, she began to follow the route used by Padma, but then, all of a sudden, a cracking sound indicated that the bamboo was breaking under her weight.

The team could see the panic in Sayang’s eyes as she tried desperately to force her way across, but the bamboo cracked again and broke up even more. With no secure foothold and a swift current running underneath her, Sayang scuttled back to the base of the bamboo clump. She sat there silent for a while, then started a new approach. 

She climbed up another straight bamboo length, higher and higher, until it slowly bent towards the branch across the river. Finally, with patience and tenacity, Sayang made it safely to the other side and was reunited with Padma.

Still looking worried, Sayang rushed to Padma and held her close. Then, after calming down, the two climbed up into the trees and brachiated off into the distance, out of sight. Sayang’s love for Padma is immeasurable. She showed us that she would do anything to stay together with her beloved daughter. What another amazing sight for our PRM team and something that can only be experienced in the Kehje Sewen Forest!

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