In 1971 Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas and Rod Brindamour established an orangutan rehabilitation and release program at Tanjung Puting Reserve (now national park). It was the first such program in Kalimantan. The reasons for establishing the rehabilitation program at Camp Leakey included removing orangutans from the commercial pet trade, improving the quality of life for ex-captive orangutans, educating local people and government officials, and establishing a highly visible tourist attraction in the park. Equally important, Dr. Galdikas felt that an orangutan rehabilitation program would help highlight the importance of Tanjung Puting and help protect the forests around Camp Leakey as well as the wild orangutans living in the park by making the orangutan work more visible.
OFI’s program in Tanjung Puting National Park has released approximately 200 orangutans to the wild. Successfully released orangutan ex-captives engage in species appropriate behavior, reproduce successfully, and, in the case of females, rear offspring. Some of these offspring have themselves become mothers. In one case, a granddaughter of an original released wild born ex-captive orangutan has herself given birth.
At Camp Leakey, wild born ex-captive orangutans and their offspring sometimes return for the daily feedings, especially when fruit in the forest is scarce. Wild orangutans sometimes come to the feeding as well, especially when wild fruit is not abundant. Some wild born ex-captive orangutans also return for stimulation, for social interaction with other orangutans, and even humans. It is almost like they want to see “what’s going on” at Camp Leakey which serves as a type of “Manhattan” (a busy population center) for the orangutans.