Habitat destruction and forest fragmentation due to agricultural expansion are leaving orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) scattered in populations of questionable viability. The Sabah Wildlife Department is capturing these stranded wild animals and translocating them to protected habitat. The goals of this project are numerous; to provide these stranded animals with a chance of survival, to continually improve capture techniques, to establish a permanent identification protocol for translocated animals, and to evaluate the health status of these wild orangutans via physical examination and blood sample collection. Telazol® (tiletamine HCl and zolazepam HCl) at mean dosages of 2.92 mg/kg or a 5:1 Ketamil:Xylazil combination (ketamine HCl and xylazine HCl) at mean dosages of 8.24 mg/kg of ketamine are used as immobilization drugs. In general, the Telazol® protocol offers several advantages including shorter induction times and a smaller dart volume.
Captured animals are identified with a tattoo on the inner thigh, a Trovan transponder chip, a freeze-brand and photographs. Blood samples are collected at the time of capture to establish values for serum chemistries, vitamins, minerals, metals selected toxicological agents, and infectious diseases. When possible, white blood cell counts, PCV and total serum proteins are evaluated in the field. Physical examinations are performed, physiological data is collected, and fur is collected for genetic analysis. Unfortunately, freeze-branding in orangutans under field conditions did not give the desired effect and has therefore been temporarily discontinued. Evaluation of collected samples is currently in progress.