For the human surrogate mothers at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, the moment a young orangutan progresses to a more advanced Forest School group is an occasion to celebrate. This promotion occurs whenever an orangutan fulfils the criteria to enter a new level, based on their skill repertoire and natural behaviours. Joining a more advanced group allows orangutans to continue their jungle education and further develop more complex survival skills.
About a year ago, Malika, Kalanis, Monte, Jessi, and Uru of Group 3 were busily playing in their Forest School area, when unexpectedly one of the surrogate mothers arrived with a group of orangutans in tow. Malika and her peers were intrigued by the arrival of the strangers. Mema, Oka, Rachel, and Zahri, who were promoted from Group 2, were making their way to their new play area.
It didn’t take long for the two groups to blend. They were immediately friendly toward one another and appeared to enjoy playing together. However, new arrival Zahri was courageous and looking for more adventure. He wandered off alone to check out all the interesting nooks and crannies of this new location. Monte, a senior in the group, moved over to Zahri and accompanied him into the forest to explore away from the view of the surrogate mothers.
Then, all of a sudden, Zahri rushed back to one of the babysitters. What has happened? He seemed quite distressed and was heavily drooling. Luckily, the surrogate mother knew instantly what was wrong: The little runaway must have eaten some caladium leaves, which are found throughout the area. She immediately rinsed his mouth and lips with water to relieve the itching. It took a while for Zahri to calm down, but eventually, he wandered off to join Monte again in play.
We are sure that Zahri learned something from this valuable lesson, as the most uncomfortable experiences can leave the strongest impressions. Every day we are in awe of how these young orangutans continue to pick up new skills and behaviours.