10 March 2011

Paloma returns to Ketapang to find bigger, hairier, happier orangutans!

Paloma has returned to Ketapang after some time away in Australia and gives us her first impressions on how the orangutans are progressing.

Monti investigating a tube filled with foodIt has been already seven months since I left Ketapang last June. For sure during this time I have been missing this place and the orangutans and luckily I have been able to come again for another six months.

My first impression about the orangutans after all this time has been so good. It is so nice to see right now all the babies playing together in the playground area, they are so many, and it is so amazing how the babies I knew have grown. I couldn't believe that the hairy orange ball who was climbing everything so confidently was Monti! She is so big and independent that it is a real pleasure just to observe her for hours.

Melky playing with sandMelky is already a big boy and the boss of all the babies. His weight is 18.5kg, and he is really powerful. The baby keepers do a very good job because I can imagine how difficult it must be to cope with him. I remember he used to be very cheeky when I was looking after him in the baby school, but right now he is two times bigger, therefore it has to be really hard work. Luckily the enrichments keep him busy, yet sometimes he looks for strange activities too, such as making a hole in the ground by himself and playing with the wet sand that can be found about 30 cm under the surface. He even enjoys putting his head into the hole and staying there with his head down. Perhaps he’s trying to cool his head down. So interesting to see him playing!

Sindi on the roofAlso I have noted that Sindi is probably the most independent of all the babies and the biggest after Melky. She likes to be around in the trees at the highest points and watch what is going on outside the baby school. Probably she loves the wind in these places because the other day she was just sitting on the roof of the playground area and suddenly she just stood up and opened her mouth, closing her eyes as though she was just enjoying feeling the wind.

Ledi investigating food enrichmentI have met also the nine new baby orangutans - Karmilla, Ongky, Jack, Puyol, Ujang, Ledi, Cemong and the youngest Paolo and Pedro. This first week in the centre I have been training myself to recognise each one. This is hard work for the first few days but after a while it becomes so evident which one is which!

In the adult enclosures my big surprise was to see Mona with very healthy and long hair. JoJo also has grown very good looking because when I left he had very little hair and now his arms, body and head are covered and his beard grows again. I can see also that the capabilities of many of them have improved a lot. Before I would only see Mona using the branches from the vegetation as a tool to get food from the nearby cages and from the outside, but these days I have also seen Huta, Jingo and JoJo using this skill: probably they have learnt it from Mona.

JoJo is now using toolsI also met the new adult: Monte, the oldest of all of them; Mely now with the female group - Mona, Nicky and Huta; Peni who is very aggressive towards humans and, knowing her history, I completely understand why; John who is now with the male group - JoJo and Jingo, and Patrick, the smallest in the transit, always looking for a bit of a game between the cages with the male group or with Monte.

Moreover the centre is getting bigger and also the team has grown a lot, with new keepers and baby keepers. For this reason I will focus my work on the enrichments to try to make all the orangutans’ lives busy and fun while they are still in the emergency centre. Luckily I could meet Carolynn and she showed me the work she was doing during her stay and we practiced the training behaviour to get blood tests from JoJo and Mely. I think it is a very important issue and very interesting work, thus I will be very happy to continue with it under the supervision of vet Anita.

And of course I will keep sending through news and updates frequently!

Shoulders to the wheel!

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