Romance in the rain

Crack!’, went the sound of a broken twig, stopping our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team from Camp Nles Mamse in the Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan, in their tracks!

Tasked with observing and collecting data on the behaviour of released orangutans in the forest, the PRM team members are always delighted to hear cracking sounds in the forest, as it indicates that an orangutan may be nearby.

When they looked up, they saw not one but two orangutans foraging up in the canopy: Angely and Justin. Both have been living in Kehje Sewen Forest for quite some time. We released Angely in 2016 and Justin a year later.

The two lovebirds, Angely (left) and Justin (right).

During their observations, our team noticed that Justin seemed very attached to Angely, as he followed her practically everywhere she went. These two orangutans are both adults, as Justin is 14 years old and Angely is 12.

Time passed, and the skies turned cloudy in the afternoon, creating the perfect conditions for a siesta. Justin started building his day nest. He was just about to lie down in his leaf-cushioned structure when Angely, who had been eating nearby, moved away and climbed into another tree. Without hesitation, Justin abandoned his comfortable nest to follow her.

When Angely finally stopped to build her nest, Justin also stopped and began building a new nest nearby, at a slightly higher level in the trees than Angely. After both had laid down in their respective nests, the true romance began.

Justin can spot Angely from his nest above her.

Justin and Angely were holding onto the same liana. Our team saw Justin jiggling the liana several times, and Angely would shake it light back towards him. They kept this up for quite a while and appeared to be in sync with each other.

Justin became restless a short time later and emerged from his nest to nibble on and strip the bark of the liana he and Angely had been holding. Angely watched him chew away at their connection line. Then Justin, perhaps sensing that Angely was eyeing him, let go of the liana and climbed up into the canopy to find another place to forage. Angely waited for Justin to abandon his feeding spot, then slowly approached and took over the liana he had been working on.

As they ate in close proximity, but at slightly different canopy levels, it suddenly began to rain. Angely was in a good spot; she was protected by the thick canopy and did not have to move to escape the downpour. Justin, meanwhile, quickly grabbed a wide leaf and used it as an umbrella to cover his head from the rain. Taking his chances, he climbed down and approached Angely. The two then sat together as the rain fell around them.

Since the day was already turning dark, our PRM team completed their observations and returned to the camp – leaving Justin and Angely alone to spend the evening in privacy.

Romance novelists couldn’t write a more tender scene!

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