We have an update on Dilla! She is one of our unreleasable orangutans, and she became famous in the documentary series ‘Orangutan Jungle School’. While all orangutans in BOS Foundation’s care have a tragic backstory, Dilla had a particularly rough start in life. When she arrived at our Nyaru Menteng centre in 2012, we estimated her to be almost five years old, from which she had spent over four years in captivity at the hands of humans!

But while we most likely can not release her back into the wild, she now lives a healthy semi-wild life on one of our sanctuary islands. And we are thrilled to share her latest news with you.

Until the beginning of this year, Dilla was still enjoying adventures with Dius, a male orangutan from Badak Besar Island that our team temporarily placed on Badak Kecil Sanctuary Island, after he had managed to cross off the island several times. Dilla and Dius were often seen together on the island, especially when technicians came to deliver food to the feeding platform.

Dilla prefers to avoid clashing with other females at the feeding platform and waits patiently for her share.

Dilla and Dius were mostly seen at feeding platforms 5 and 6. Dius was the only male there, alongside females Dilla, Jeliva, and Mawas. Dilla is the smaller and weaker of the females, and she always gives in when there is competition over food at the feeding platform. She prefers to avoid clashing with other females and will only approach the platform after the others have taken their share of food. Dius appeared to assist Dilla at times by positioning himself in front of her while she was eating so that other females would not disturb her. What a gentleman!

After finishing the food delivered by technicians, Dilla and Dius would often disappear deeper into the island. This meant our observation team was unable to further monitor their relationship. However, now and then, our team would get lucky in the afternoons, when Dilla and Dius would move to the riverbanks to build their night nests. Several times, we observed Dilla repairing old nests made by other orangutans near the feeding platform while Dius built new nests for himself nearby.

Sadly, Dilla and Dius parted ways at the end of January, as we selected Dius as a release candidate. Therefore, we transferred him to the Nyaru Menteng complex to undergo a series of medical tests prior to being released to the wild. Unfortunately, this might mean that the two will never meet again since Dilla is currently classified as ‘unreleasable’.

Without the protection from her buddy Dius, Dilla seeks safe and strategic places in the trees so she can quickly grab some food.

But, of course, nothing is impossible. If Dilla can somehow develop some sound survival skills and take on natural behaviours while living on Badak Kecil Sanctuary Island, she might be able to change her release status and meet Dius in the forest someday.

Since the departure of Dius, Dilla has rarely stayed long at the feeding platform. She now seeks safe places in the trees that jut out a little over the river, around the platform. Dilla seems to have taken this position to quickly grab food during distribution time without having to compete with dominant peers Mawas and Jeliva. Technicians understand Dilla’s situation and usually throw fruit, tubers, and vegetables directly at her.

Being brave enough to fight over food with other orangutans is a good survival skill on the island, but adopting strategies to avoid confrontation is also a smart move. The latter is Dilla – the smart one!


Will you help us take care of unreleasable orangutans like Dilla?


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

Adopt an Orangutan

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Orangutans are endangered and at risk of extinction. Habitat destruction results in hundreds of orphaned orangutans, who rely on our care 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.

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