27 May 2011

Rahayu’s progress makes us proud

Team vet Jenny Jaffe updates us on Rahayu's progress at International Animal Rescue's orangutan centre in Ketapang, West Kalimantan.

Rahayu climbing up the jungle gymRahayu, the baby orangutan that was brought to us with severe malaria and who needed intensive care for weeks, is doing well. She has gained a good amount of weight and been integrated with the rest of the baby school now.

She can obviously hear by this point, but still cannot see owing to damage from the malaria parasite. I was initially a bit sceptical about how well a sightless orangutan would do in (our miniature version of) a forest, but our executive director Dr Karmele, assured me she knew of a blind adult at another rescue centre who was able to climb up high in the trees.

So after Rahayu’s quarantine period was over and she had showed skills at mastering her little jungle gym/hammock structure, we dared introduce her to the rest of the group. First just for half an hour, but when she showed supreme confidence, the next few days for longer and longer periods of time. Now she is out and about most of the day with the others. She climbs about happily, waving a free arm around till she finds something to grip, and then holding on very tight. She can manage to get to the very top of the tallest tree we have here at the baby school. She can even deal with the other orangutans playing with her while up there, pulling at an arm or a leg. We are so proud of her.

Rahayu clinging onto MelkyOne of the funniest moments was when she latched onto our biggest, brashest male orangutan at the baby school, Melky.

He is normally a bit of a bad boy, but now he was staggering around with Rahayu holding on tightly with her little hands and feet to the hair on his belly. Melky looked like a proper surrogate daddy for a brief moment. You could almost see him thinking: ‘How on earth did I end up in this position?’

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