27 April 2011

The orangutans go nuts for bottles and buckets of sawdust!

Ujang the infant orangutan playing with the sawdustPaloma updates us on how our rescued orangutans are enjoying their enrichment programme at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Every day the orangutans enjoy a different part of the monthly environmental enrichment programme. One of these enrichments is made with sawdust which they love to play with and also, if we add some nuts and seeds, they will spend time foraging for them. It is very interesting to see the reactions of the different orangutans to the enrichment, depending on their various personalities.

Sindi jumps into the sawdust bucket!At the baby school, we put the sawdust in a bucket which is placed between two hammocks. After filling the bucket to the brim with sawdust the curious ones soon come to investigate and examine it. They carefully remove the sawdust in small handfuls, but normally one of them gets very excited and has a wild game with the bucket and the sawdust. The last time Sindi took the lead. She hurried over when she saw the rest cautiously investigating the bucket, and then she was so excited that she jumped straight into it!

Then she climbed out again, landing on the grass but at the same time holding on to the bucket and trying to knock it over, which she eventually succeeded in doing. Then Sindi started to cover her head and her face with the sawdust and was clearly having the time of her life!

Karmilla the infant orangutan playing with the sawdustKarmilla, who is normally very shy with the enrichment and doesn’t engage very often, was there too and her fur was full of the sawdust because of Sindi's game. The other orangutans were completely surprised by Sindi's reaction: they just watched her and occasionally tried to join in but she was so focused on the sawdust that she hardly noticed the other orangutans.

The older orangutans at the emergency rescue centre have also enjoyed this enrichment, but in a different way. We usually put the sawdust inside a 19l bottle, adding also some rolled up newspaper and some peanuts and then we put the bottle inside the enclosure.

Monte empties the sawdust form the bottleI have seen different reactions to this enrichment: for example, the first thing Monte does is get the newspaper out of the bottle. But when he gets it out he doesn’t do anything with it. He tips the bottle up and watches the sawdust falling, then he tries to catch the peanuts that are falling with the sawdust.

However, his enclosure mate Patrick has found a better way to get the peanuts: he gets the newspaper that Monte takes out from the bottle and spreads it out on the floor of the enclosure, then he gets the bottle and lets the sawdust fall on the newspaper, so the peanuts can’t fall through the bars onto the ground below.

I have also seen this technique used by the group of Jojo, Jingo and John, but in this group, Jojo is the one who manipulates the bottle, letting the sawdust fall onto the newspaper, while Jingo and John are watching and waiting for the moment when the peanuts appear and then they quickly snatch them!

JoJo, Jingo and John looking for peanutsAfter finding all the peanuts they all remove every bit of sawdust from their fur and also spend a lot of time just playing with the empty bottle.

This kind of enrichment is excellent as occupational entertainment because it encourages the orangutans to forage and explore new textures. It also stimulates them to think of the best ways to get the peanuts that are hidden in the sawdust. And clearly they all have a lot of fun too!

15 April 2011

The infants are given plenty of playthings to keep them out of trouble!

The new orangutan playground
Paloma updates us on how Monte is getting on at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

AMelky enjoys playing in the net tube new play area has been built in the baby school at the orangutan rescue centre. The infants and babies were becoming very difficult to control because there are so many of them and the area is really too small for such a naughty group! For this reason it was decided to build another roof and add more structures and enrichments to focus our infants’ attention and give them something new to play with and enjoy together.

From my observations last year and at the moment as well, I can see that they really like the vertical and horizontal ropes and they love the tubes. They go inside them and rest there or just play going in, on or through. So we have equipped the area with various physical enrichments, some different from the tube function, some similar, adding also ropes, ladders and hammocks.

Bunga enjoying the blue barrelOne example is the tube made out of a big barrel. I just cut the bottom off the barrel and put the rope through it, then hung it high up from one side of the play area to the other. I made some holes as windows so that when the orangutans are inside the barrel they can observe what is going on outside. We have hung two of them up in the play area and they really love them.

Sindi enjoying her hammockAnother thing they used to like last year were the hammocks with roofs made from tyres and sacks. Before I tried this just with two tyres but now I have tried it with three, and it is much better! I like to use the tyres because they are made of very strong material and so are very durable and we also get them for free. So I have tried other ways to make the tubes a bit different. Using a net and the tyres, it is possible to make tubes that are vertical and horizontal, and they seem to enjoy using them a lot.

Bunga and Montu playing with the tyre wallWith the horizontal tube, the net gets smaller in the centre of the tube as it is very tight. Then, when they go inside they use it to lie down and it makes them slide from one side to another. With the vertical tube the orangutans like to climb it from the inside, at the same time playing at putting the net on their faces. I also add a rope inside with many bamboo pieces so they can play with it, moving the bamboo and getting pleasure just with the noise the bamboo makes. The tyres have also been used to make a simple wall of tyres: it is very easy to do and they really love going through, up and over it.

Bunga hanging out in the net tubeAlthough there are already many structures and the orangutans play a lot in the new area, it is important to evaluate now how much they use each new enrichment and how durable it is. Then we can fix the ones that haven’t been successful and look for ways to improve them and make them work. I love this task and the most rewarding thing about it is seeing how much the orangutans all enjoy it!