Observing orangutans involves collecting data on their behavioural development and physical health. Sometimes, this can be tricky, as we have experienced with Desi on Juq Kehje Swen, a pre-release island she shares with Kimi, a wild orangutan.
When our monitoring team recently observed Desi’s foraging behaviour, they discovered that Desi had only eaten soft, sweet foods for days. Could this be an indicator of illness or a problem concerning her teeth?
“Desi … Desi …”. Upon reaching the feeding platform to find out what was going on with the female, one team member called out her name so she would come and collect the food items they had brought with them that day.
They immediately heard a cracking sound resonate from the forest canopy in an area upstream. The rustling was a bit louder than expected, signifying that the approaching orangutan was moving quickly. Knowing that Desi usually moves quietly and carefully could only mean: It was troublemaker Kimi!
While waiting for Desi, who followed closely behind, one of the technicians placed some fruit on the tip of a pole and slowly raised it to the branch where Desi was waiting. But just as the pole was about to reach Desi, Kimi rushed in. The technician immediately pulled the pole back and tried to shoo her away.
The second attempt to give Desi her food was more successful. At first. She snatched a banana, but Kimi immediately interrupted the process and tried to grab the food again. The team shouted to drive Kimi away and displayed their displeasure – without success. It was then that Desi decided she was tired of the situation and started a fight with Kimi.
Eventually, Kimi backed off, and Desi could finally enjoy her food. The team attempted to carefully watch Desi as she ate to understand better what could be ailing her, but not long, and there was Kimi again. The team positioned one technician to keep her at bay while the rest examined Desi. Clearly not happy with this arrangement, Kimi emitted a loud kiss squeak.
Unfortunately, we could not collect as much data as we would have liked due to the constant interruptions. But we will continue working hard to closely watch over Desi until we fully understand what has caused the change in her foraging behaviour and determine her current health status.