In Forest School, orangutans form close bonds with their surrogate mothers, especially the littlies in the Nursery Group. They will even sleep in the company of their babysitters, who cater to the youngsters’ needs around the clock, providing a sense of security to these traumatised orphans. During the day at Forest School, our surrogate mothers distribute food and milk to the little students, who are not yet skilled enough to forage on their own.
At our Nyaru Menteng Forest School, Malika and Meryl are known for bringing gifts from the forest to their surrogate mothers, especially after they return from exploring an area outside of the babysitters’ immediate view. The surrogate mothers appreciate this gesture, knowing that this means the youngsters are working on honing their basic skills. Their ability to explore and learn about is a vital component of their rehabilitation process, to prepare them for a future life in the wild.
Malika is now at the stage where she prefers to learn everything by herself. She will gladly play alone for hours, and when it is time to return to the complex, she arrives bearing gifts of leaves, twigs, or small fruits for the surrogate mothers. From the items Malika brings, it is easy to deduct how she had spent her time in the forest that day, and what new knowledge she had acquired.
Meryl also brings frequent gifts to the babysitters, but, on occasion, selects more unique surprises than Malika. One day last year, Meryl had spent all her time in forest school exploring the forest alone. She was tired by the end of the day but looked excited as she re-joined the group, grasping something in her hand. Meryl immediately offered her prize to the gathering surrogate mothers as they were preparing to return to the night complex. All of a sudden, the surrogate mothers screamed out of surprise, then burst into laughter.
Meryl had gifted them with a plump, wriggling caterpillar! This present had certainly been the most surprising forest offering from Meryl to date.