Saturday the 15th October was the beginning of my second week in the outdoor nursery with Bidu, Beryl, Kolapis, Gellison and Chiquita. These babies are all aged between 4-6 and would still be with their mothers in the wild. Orangutans learn a huge amount from their mothers as they live solitary lives and only have their mother to teach them things. By the time orangutan babies are the same as Beryl and Bidu they would be venturing further away from their Mother to explore on their own but they would always be keeping a close eye on Mum incase of danger.
The outdoor nursery is a big space with a jungle gym for the orangutans to play on, it has ropes and tyres that they can swing and play with. There are also three platforms that we use for feeding. There are also lots of ropes that go from the outdoor nursery into the jungle and we want them to start venturing off in the jungle and socialising with the semi wild orangtans that are also at the centre.
During my second week in the outdoor nursery I made sure I took time every day to be aware of how amazing my surroundings were, it’s so easy just to focus on the task in hand like – making sure Chiquita doesn’t go on the roof, stopping Bidu playing in the puddles, making sure they’re not on the floor eating mud etc, that it’s easy to take the surroundings for granted. The outdoor nursery is a beautiful space that’s surrounded by huge trees and it’s great watching the semi wild orangutans come into the nursery from the jungle to have a play with the babies and eat.
It’s great to spend time with the babies in the outdoor nursery, they are at such a great age and find fun in everything! Their mood changes just like ours, some days they are extremely cheeky and give you the run around, other days they are a little quieter and are quite happy to sit and quietly wrestle with one another, other days its a mixture of both!
We have to make sure that the babies don’t go onto the ground and instead choose to spend their time in the trees or on the ropes – this is because wild orangutans never spend anytime on the forest floor, they are in danger of being hurt by predators such as dogs or snakes, I would never have thought that dogs would attack an orangutan but it’s something that does happen so we need to teach them that the floor is a dangerous place to be!
In our second week we started using a plastic snake on a stick when the babies were on the floor, we used it sparingly as we didn’t want them to get used to it but it was very effective as they were very cautious of it and would go up onto the platforms when we got closer with it, this is a great way to teach them that they need to stay up high if they see something that are scared of!
Working with the babies was such a special and amazing experience, when I walked with Beryl for the first time and she was walking and holding my hand I was shocked at how heavy her hand was! When you see the babies swinging and climbing you see just how strong they are so when they hold your hand so gently it’s amazing because you realise how gentle they are being with you. Another thing that shocked me is how heavy they are! Bidu, who is 4 and likes to be dragged around rather than walking weighs 23kg! It’s alot of weight to be dragging around with one arm and lifting up onto the feeding platforms that are eye level, I swear I have built up muscles in my arms quicker than when I had a gym membership!
These little bundles of fun really are a pleasure to work with, it’s weird to even call it work because I loved every second I spent with them and I had so many special moments with them. They have the biggest personalities and would make me laugh on a daily basis, I would love watching them learn from one another and progress over the weeks. When I first worked with them, on the first day I was a bit intimidated by them, just by their sheer strength alone but you soon feel comfortable being so close to them and start to learn about each individual and their behavior.
I will cherish the little moments I shared with them like cleaning their hands and feet, this was my favourite part of the day! You would say ‘Bagis’ which means ‘Give’ and they would give you their hand and you would place it under the sink and wipe any mud off it (they can pick up nasty parasites from the mud and it can make them very sick), when you’d done both hands it was time for their feet to have a wash too, when you are washing their feet they place their hands on your shoulders and I swear the first time it happened I nearly died, it was the cutest thing ever!
The way that these guys look up as you as you walk along together is just breath taking. At the end of the day when we give them their milk they would look into your eyes with such intensity, it was amazing and I cherished those moments everyday.
It was heart breaking to say goodbye to these guys but I know they are in the best place with a team of people who care so deeply about every single one of them. The rangers have looked after these babies from such a young age, Chiquita for instance was bought to the centre at 3 weeks old! The orangutans at the centre are never released into the jungle, instead they are free to come and go as they please and when the time is right they will choose to spend the majority of their time in the jungle rather than at the centre. You can see the strong bond between the rangers and the orangutans at the centre and the love they all share. I know these guys will go on to have great lives, I’m so happy I was able to meet them and I can’t wait to see what their futures hold!
You can actually adopt some of the orangutans that are at the centre, including Bidu, Beryl, Chiquita and Gellison that I looked after in the outdoor nursery, it’s really worthwhile as your money from the adoption helps the centre and you get a lovely gift and updates about your chosen orangutan. It’s a great idea for a gift! Please click here or visit www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk/adopt and please share with anyone that you think would be interested!