The Bornean rainforest contains an array of wildlife. In population size and richness of species, nothing compares to ants and termites, the “recyclers” of the rainforest. Staff at OFI’s Care Center in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) use these insects to provide natural enrichment and vital nutrition for those animals who, for a variety of reasons, can’t venture out and forage for themselves.
On her way to find some ant nests and termite mounds, Ibu Jitun doesn’t let a little rain dampen her spirits. She strides confidently into the forest knowing exactly where to locate termites and ants.
More often than not, staff have to get their hands dirty and dig, but sometimes staff get lucky and find some ant nests on the open ground.
Using a machete, Ibu Jitun sharpens one end of a branch into her very own ant nest detection tool.
She pokes and prods around at the dirt at the base of the trees, listening for the distinctive sound that nests make when the tool strikes.
But even when it sounds like she has struck insect gold, sometimes it turns out to be yet another set of tree roots.
Once an ant nest has been detected, Ibu Jitun digs around it and then pulls it out. Bigger nests must be handled with care in order not to break them.
There are also termite mounds to be found. Colonies vary wildly in size and are divided into groups of workers and soldiers who serve a monogamous king and queen.
Termite nests are usually found underground, or on tree stems where they are easier than ant nests to cut away and retrieve.
Hundreds of termites dwell within a single nest. Preyed upon by other species such as ants, soldier termites respond quickly, swarming out of the nest to meet a threat.
A successful morning’s work yields almost two sacks full to take back to the Care Center.
On the way back, the machete comes in handy, cutting away at dead branches to make way for the load.
When you go grocery shopping, you often come back with more than your shopping list. Likewise, during their outing, the staff will also collect fruit bearing flowers that the Dayak people call “Topah”.
Pulling the petals apart reveals the fruit inside. Maue Kay loves her treat!
Carmen gets a little help opening the flower from her caregiver Ibu Sanek.
Meanwhile, Bubu the bear cub, picks apart an ant nest with her strong claws. Ants are a nutritious snack to help her grow. In the wild, sun bears spend most of their time in the forest foraging for ants and termites.
Orangutans, like Kino pictured here, typically use more blunt force to access their snack, sometimes bashing the ant nests on the ground or against a tree to break them open.
And now it’s time to feast! Tommy happily raises the nest to his mouth to suck the ants out.
Termites and ants: a bounty of protein for all, orangutans and bears, at the Care Center!