New vet scholarship aids wild orang utans

Two vets from Indonesia are the first to benefit from a unique new scholarship programme run by a Cornish vet charity. OVAID – Orang utan Veterinary Aid – is run by Nigel and Sara Hicks, based in Launceston. They help hard-pressed orang utan rescue centres and sanctuaries with veterinary support and donations of equipment.

The new OVAID Bronwyn Scholarship meant that two South East Asian vets were able to make the 12,000 kilometre (7,500 mile) journey to the UK to exchange techniques and information on the care and welfare of orang utans.

During their stay they spent a week with vets and animal keepers at Paignton Zoo in Devon. Paignton Zoo Head Vet Ghislaine Sayers: “We discussed planning and reviewing procedures and looked at pieces of equipment that they rarely get a chance to use. We shared our experiences of working with orang utans and they shared theirs – we have learned from them and they have learned from us!”

The two work in different orang utan rescue centres, one in Borneo, one in Sumatra (1,500 kilometres West of Borneo). Arga Kusuma is from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) orangutan rescue and rehabilitation centre at Nyaru Menteng, Central Kalimantan, Borneo. He features prominently in the Channel 4 TV documentary series ‘Orangutan Jungle School’. Pandu Wibisono is a vet at the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP) remote release site at Jantho, Aceh, Sumatra.

Paignton Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling: “It was great to have Arga and Pandu here, and to help OVAID’s wonderful work. A week wasn’t long enough for everything our vets and our keepers wanted to do with them. They enjoyed their time here and it’s great that knowledge from experts in Devon will help care for orang utans in Borneo and Sumatra.”

The four-month scholarship also enabled the two to spend time at Liverpool University Vet School and with specialist vet practices in the UK. The scholarship has been established with generous funding from the late Bronwyn Watson of Australia and will enable a number of Indonesian vets to increase their expertise over the coming years.

Arga, Pandu, Nigel and Sara were interviewed at Paignton Zoo by BBC Inside Out South West for a film to be shown later in the year. Paignton Zoo www.paigntonzoo.org.uk, OVAID www.ovaid.org.