KEEPING ORANGUTANS BUSY

Nothing is more boring than sitting behind bars in an enclosure and watching the day go by. But luckily, this is different for the orangutans in our care. Our enrichment team comes up with lots of fun items to keep our residents mentally and physically stimulated.

What do bamboo shoots, ice blocks, cardboard boxes and old tyres have to do with orangutans? A lot. The BOS Foundation enrichment team uses them to create toys, problem-solving puzzles and structures to keep the orangutans in our centres active.

Given how intelligent these great apes are – they share 97% of the same DNA as humans – these challenges, opportunities and stimulations are crucial for their wellbeing. Regular stimuli are especially important for our long-time residents, who most likely will never return to the wild. While waiting in their enclosures for a spot on a sanctuary island or another controlled outdoor environment, they receive daily visits from the enrichment staff.

By definition, enrichment is a main husbandry principle seeking to enhance the quality of animal care, whether in zoos, sanctuaries or similar facilities. We are lucky to have Lou Grossfeldt, Primate Manager at Sydney Zoo and one of the leading experts in great ape husbandry, as our BOS Australia Vice President. She says, “One of the challenges of any enrichment program is to keep it dynamic by regularly implementing new ideas and problems for the animals to solve. We must keep their minds occupied because orangutans experience stress and boredom just like humans.”

Stimulating their natural skills through enrichment items is critical for orangutans in our care, especially for the unreleasable ones.

Lou states that collaboration is key when it comes to enrichment development. Working alongside the experienced BOS Foundation technicians gives valuable insight into the daily challenges and solutions needed to provide the best care possible for each individual.

As much as orangutans love to eat, it is not surprising that items with hidden food rewards are extremely popular among our residents and perfect for stimulating their natural foraging skills. Therefore, the enrichment team hides fruits, vegetables and seeds, for example, in cardboard boxes, ice blocks or bamboo shoots.

Especially bamboo is used a lot as it grows abundantly in Borneo. To get to the reward in the hollow centres of the shoots, the orangutans have to either insert their fingers to poke the filling out or use some sort of tool. In the wild, orangutans would use fingers and sticks to lure termites out of mounds and then savour the protein-rich snack.

To replicate the swinging from branches, the enrichment team implements flexible support like ropes and tyre swings that are not rigid like cage bars or platforms. And to encourage the physically fit orangutans to move around more actively, they install entertaining climbing structures.

“Many of the orangutans in our care could live up to 50 years, so we must ensure their lives are as enriched and happy as possible”, says Lou Grossfeldt, who is also responsible for the BOS Australia Volunteer Program.

She encourages everyone to join the program in Borneo and support the enrichment team hands-on. “Creating new items and seeing the orangutans and sun bears in Samboja Lestari interacting with them is an unforgettable experience.”

 

How Can You Help

There are lots of ways you can support orangutans and help ensure the survival of this precious ape.

Adopt an Orangutan

Adopt an Orangutan

Orangutans are endangered and at risk of extinction. Habitat destruction means hundreds of orphan orangutans need to care for every year. You can help by adopting one. Their dedicated ‘nannies’ teach them everything they need to know for when it’s time to release them back to the wild. You can follow their progress through Forest School.

Adopt Now
Make a Donation

Make a Donation

Please help the Orangutans in their struggle for survival. Your donation is important and goes directly to BOS Indonesia. By donating, you are helping bring this noble yet endangered species back from the brink of extinction and on a path to freedom - from rescue to rehabilitation and release.

Donate Now
Visit Our Shop

Visit Our Shop

The perfect gift for any occasion! Choose from our selection of instant gifts that directly support our orangutans. You can buy a wheelbarrow, provide food for an orangutan for two months or lots more. You will receive a certificate, personalised with the name of your choice - perfect gift for you or a friend.

Shop Now