Last Monday I started my first week in the outdoor nursery with the orangutans! I was so excited to finally get up close to them and to really get stuck into helping at the centre. As excited as I was to meet them I was apprehensive too as I had no idea what to expect!
There are 5 orangutans that use the outdoor nursery – Beryl, Bidu-Bidu, Kolapis, Gellison and Chiquita. They are all juveniles and have been at the centre since they were babies. There are also semi wild orangutans here, they were here as babies but now come and go between the jungle and the centre. It’s great to learn about the stories of these orangutans and amazing to watch them thrive in the jungle.
When I first met them all I couldn’t really tell them apart but after spending six days with them their individual personalities shone through! They are all so funny and had us in stitches everyday! They are so loving but don’t be fooled because they keep you on your toes, you turn your back for 2 seconds and someones up to no good! Brooms, buckets, keys, EVERYTHING has to be locked away so they don’t get hold of them!
We share the food between two feeding platforms and it’s great to see them going through the food to find the best bit to eat. Papaya always goes first! Rumbutans, which are a local fruit, similar to a lychee and it’s their favourite! They will do anything for a Rumbutan! We get those and hide them in the tyres and the platforms for them to find, it doesn’t take them long!
When we’re working with the orangutans we have to encourage them to climb on the ropes and stay on the platforms, in the wild the babies would be up high with their mother away from the forest floor and the predators that could harm them, they also eat EVERYTHING and eating the dirt and mud on the ground can be very harmful to them.
We speak to them in Malaysian and use simple commands like up (nike), come (mari mari), walk (julan), in (masouk). At first it was hard to remember all the right words but after a day or two it was second nature to us!
When we walk with the orangutans you are told to hold onto their hands firmly, they feel safe knowing you have a firm grip on them and their mother would hold them tightly. The first time I walked out with one, Beryl, it was so bizarre. They are so strong and hold your hand so tightly, it’s an amazing feeling to walk along with them hand in hand. Little Beryl is so gentle and often looks up at you while you walk along, she also likes to hold both of your hands or holds onto your leg too as you walk along together. She is such a sweetheart!
I have had the BEST six days and I can’t belive I get to call it work! It’s such a pleasure to spend time and get to know these amazing animals. They share 96.4% of the same DNA as us and at times it’s hard to belive they can’t talk back to you, they are so human and have the most amazing personalities. I have felt so privileged just sitting there and observing them interacting with each other. I still can’t believe I’m here – I’m loving every minute!