We recently reiceived a donation to fund proper work uniforms for the SOC staff. Now, during working hours, all care takers change into a specific work uniform when entering the center, that may only be used during working near and with the orang utans. This prevents workers from bringing diseases from outside into the orangutan centre. Because orangutan´s DNA is so similar to humans, they can get affected by the same diseases, unlike other animals such as birds, dogs... However, these bacterea or virusses that only have a minor effect on us as humans, can be very severe for the orang utans, because their body has not built up a resistance to it. So, switching into a uniform should help to decrease the risks of orang utans getting infected by our staff.
THE FRIENDLY ELEFANT
Prior to receiving this funding, the team at the center used their own working clothes that was washed on site. One of our keepers used a T-Shirt with a big friendly elephant on it as his workwear. Not everybody thought this was a friendly elephant though. When he wore that shirt around one of the young orangutans name Iga, she would run off whilst making loud noises as soon as she spotted the elephant on the shirt.
MASKS, BOOTS AND GLOVES
Part of the uniform is a mask to prevent harmful bacteria transmissions, but also to prevent the caretakers inhaling bacteries from faeces, when cleaning the enclosures. Boots are used to prevent contamination, like when the caretakers are cleaning the enclosures using disinfectant to kill microorganism that are bad for humans and for the orangutans. Gloves are used when cleaning the enclosures and handing out food, to ensure the food given to them are free from transferable diseases.
Usually the apes run to the caretakers when food is handed out. One of the caretakers noticed that Mona ran in the opposite direction, far away from the food. It turned out that Mona was pretty scared of the gloves that the caretakers were wearing and they had to hand out food to her without those gloves. To ensure they maintained a high level of hygiene, they always wash their hands thoroughly when they feed her. Orangutans are scared of peculiar things, but they can easily be comforted once you understand the problem.
Mona and Aming have made friends for life in SOC. Orangutan babies live together in the baby enclosure, they play, eat and sleep together each day and each baby has his or her close friends that they like to hang out with.
Mona and Aming for example have been close friends since their arrival at SOC. They couldn´t go to the main baby enclosure right away, because they were too small compared to the other babies, so we put them together in a separate enclosure for the first couple of months. We always observe to see which organutans are best suited to create a safe and harmonious home for them whilst at SOC. If we had put Mona and Aming with the older babies in the main enclosure when they arrived, the bigger orangutans would have bullied them. Mona and Aming are now old enough to live with the other babies in the main enclosure.
When the enclosures had to get maintained a few weeks ago, the caretakers had to move the babies to separate ones. Mona cried out loud when she saw that Aming was brought to a different enclosure - some friends you cannot seperate from each other. Not for one hour...
MAYA AND SELLY, imitating each others skills
Good friendship can also be very helpful during the rehabilitation process as orangutans can learn a lot from each other. In the wild, babies have their mothers to teach them how to successfully become an independent adult. The young orangutans stay with their mothers for up to eight years (!!) to learn everything needed to survive on their own in the wild. the orangutans we rescue are all orphans and learn a great deal of survival skills from their friends and the caretakers at the SOC.
It is not always about imitating useful skills, sometimes it´s just imitating anything that your best friend does. Like Maya and Selly. When drinking mild, they both finish the milk quickly, but keep some in their mouth for a while whilst climbing around. It could be their way of making sure they get all their milk thus preventing others from grabbing their bottles before they have a chance to finish it.
Where is the bottle opener??
Sometimes we present some food in bottles, so the babies can work on their problem-solving skills and figure out how to get the food out of the bottle. We call this "food enrichment". Mona has her own way of solving this, we discovered. We saw Mona triying hard to get the food out of the bottle, she tried and tried, but couldn´t get anything out. She looked around and saw that Selly had already broken her bottle. Mona went to Selly and swapped her bottle with Selly´s. Selly did not mind at all and she immediately startet to break the new bottle. Even though grabbing others´s food is a habit that Mona has, she also learnt how to exchange some things if she can´t solve the problem herself. Hopefully she will soon learn how to deal with these enrichments on her own.
When Mamat, Tanjung and Molly were in the night enclosure getting ready for bed, Mamat had made himself comfortable in the hammock filled with leaves. Tanjung sat on the enclosure floor staring jealously at Mamat´s comfortable nest, when all of a sudden, Tanjung climbed up and pulled Mamat´s left foot, trying to get Mamat out of the hammock. Mamat got angry at this disturbance, he was tired and certainly didn´t feel like sharing the hammock. Tanjung however, wasn´t planning on giving up that easliy and continued harassing Mamat; this time with a bit more force. After a bit of a struggle, she finally won. The defeated Mamat had to hand over the hammock retreated sadly to the enclose floor... but not for very long....
Just a view minutes later, Mamat had compiled his master plan, he climbed up in close proximity of the hammock, so he was in reach of Tanjung and started poking her. Tanjung pretended not to be annoyed at all, so Mamat moved to plan B. He climbed inside the hammock and draped himself over Tanjung, ignoring Tanjung´s presence in the hammock. Tanjung had finally had enough of Mamat sitting on her face and she looked for another resting place, whilst Mamat was bathing in the glory of winning his prized thrown back.
Getting the best spot when sleeping in the enclosures doesn´t always involve kicking each other out of a desired location. Early one morning Selly was making her nest in a hanging tyre to have a nap; she collected some branches with leaves, carried them up the tree and started putting them together. Not far from the tyre, Maya sat down quickly, keeping one eye on Selly, diligent working on her nest.
Once finished, Selly jumped in her nest. Not long after, Maya came up and jumped in the nest with her as well. As they are close friends, Selly did not mind sharing, even though Maya hadn´t been participating in the building process.
Friends, nests and climbing
Tanjung and Molly continue to be good motivators to get Mamat to climb at least a few meters off the ground and in the trees. However, he also finds great pleasure playing on the forest floor with other orangutans, where he spends most of his time. His nesting skills hasn´t improved much, meaning he still doesn´t make nests, collect leaves nor is he interested in playing with branches whilst in forest school; although he does like to play and collect leaves when given to him by the caretakers in the night enclosure. His primary sleeping sport is still in a dead log on the forest floor.
It´s the small things that bring happiness
It is so lovely to see how some orangutans express their feelings of happiness. The orangutans get additional food other than the food they have to find themselves in the forest during forest school, because they are not yet all capable of finding enough food by themselves. When the caretakers bring the additional food to the orangutans who stay in forest school, some orangutans came walking on hand and feet and others climb down from the trees. Although Jojo is very capable of finding her own food, she gets very excited when they bring fruit, and comes tumbling around the corner head over heals! It´s wonderful to see how happy such small things can make..
she often makes us laugh with her funny behaviours like tumbling on her head when she´s happy, always having her thumb in her mouth and using leaves as a head band. Although it is our biggest wish to see them successfully released in the wild, we will miss her tremendously.
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MAMAT ORANG UTAN HILFE
1190 Wien, Pfarrwiesengasse 18
Karin Hackl und Lisa Natterer, Obfrauen
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