26 January 2011

Meet Patrick the prankster

Our volunteer Carolynn sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

Patrick joined our group in Ketapang late last year, and luckily has been in good health and spirits since day one. He was kept as a pet by a Buddhist Monk in Pontianak for about a year, but luckily the conditions were miles better than those of most pet orangutans.

Patrick the orangutanAt the age of four, Patrick is very much a prankster and absolutely loves attention. The other day I was sitting in front of orangutan Peni's enclosure to try and get a good photo of her, and Patrick was super jealous that he wasn't the one getting stared and gawked at.

Patrick found a branch in his enclosure that was just long enough to reach me, and he batted at me several times with it. I tried to swipe it from him, but he was too fast and retreated as though he had grown tired of the game. As soon as I had my camera set up and had forgotten about Patrick, I felt something poking me in the side. I turned my head and saw Patrick with both his arms fully extended and his signature mouth open play-face, gleefully manipulating the stick. "Patrick!!!" I yelled, as I leaned to grab the stick. That time I was faster than Patrick, and the stick was mine.

Before too long, I felt the familiar jab in my side again while trying to take a picture, and of course it was Patrick again with another branch. In the future I'll be sure to spend some time playing with Patrick before taking photos of the others, at least when I'm within branch-poking-range.

6 January 2011

Infants Jack and Puyol go to baby school

Our volunteer Carolynn sends us the latest news from our orangutan rescue centre in Ketapang.

Bunga and PuyolNew orangutans Jack and Puyol finished their quarantine periods this week and were able to enter baby school along with the rest of the baby orangutans.

Jack appeared most comforted by Melky and Sindi who immediately wanted to wrestle and rough-house, while Puyol was definitely most excited about the carrot and honey enrichment treats hidden high up in the trees.

Puyol’s appetite never ceases to amaze me. He's still a little guy, but don’t let those skinny arms fool you. I'm sure he'll start building some more muscle on his limbs now that he has the whole day to climb and play with the group.

I was excited to see orangutans Puyol and Karmila first meet at baby school since they are both about the same age. They said “Hello” by meeting in the trees and gently tugging each other's hair a bit. I think they will make good buddies since they both tend to be a bit more laid back and relaxed than the others.

BungaOrangutan babysitter Nur had the great idea to gather a bundle of wet leaves and sprinkle a nutrient-packed fruit supplement powder called “bubur” on top for the orangutans to forage for. Nur suspended the tasty bundle above the baby school feeding platform and the whole group foraged with great interest for at least a half hour. It was quite funny to see them all with powdered, sticky faces. This is a great way to keep them occupied while still teaching them about the importance of looking upwards for food using all natural materials.

Orangutan Bunga was one of the first to race up the platform to explore the new enrichment. Bunga might just be the most curious of all of our orangutans, always interested in exploring novel objects and finding new things to play with. I’m always laughing at Bunga’s curiosity with clothing, since she frequently tugs on her babysitters’ trouser legs and shirts as if to say, “What is the point of this stuff?” I’ve also caught her peeking inside baby Pedro’s diaper, which always has me howling with laughter.

Bunga, Puyol and MelkyBunga’s curiosity also translates well into friendliness towards the other orangutans as well as with her human babysitters. I like to think of Bunga as “the popular girl” since she seems to be friends with everybody. She frequently joins in on the wrestling matches with the high-energy orangutans, while she is also content to sit and groom with her more laid back friends Ujang and Sigit. Even when she is naughty it’s hard to stay mad when she rushes over with her arms outstretched above her head. The group would not be the same without her.