Direct from the Bornean rainforest comes a story from OFI’s indigenous caregivers about an orangutan’s unique appreciation of their hobby! Pak Denni, who joined OFI in 2003, describes the amusing encounter. Throughout the years, he has worked at several facilities called “Pondoks” at the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine. Now at Pondok Dua, he works with the juvenile orangutans and loves to see how much they learn. His favorite part of the job is joining these young orangutans during their daily releases into the Learning Forest and watching them develop the skills they will need to survive in the wild. It is during this time in “forest school” that the following tale unfurls.
“It was a warm sunny day when we went to the Learning Forest on our daily release with a small group of young enthusiastic orangutans. When we arrived at the Learning Forest, most orangutans made their way up into the trees within minutes. As always, it is a joy to see them in their natural habitat, discovering the canopy. Happily, I and the other caregivers sat on some branches and watched them for a while until a beautiful butterfly caught the attention of Ibu Evi and myself. Gracefully the big butterfly fluttered in circles around us, in and out of the sunlight that entered the Learning Forest from above. Its beautiful wings contained different colors of blue and intense black. If you have been following the blog on OFI’s website for a while, you already know that we, at Pondok Dua, have a special thing for photographing the beautiful insects that we come across.
When spotting the butterfly, Ibu Evi and I jumped up from the branch we were sitting on and reached out for our cameras. Quickly but carefully we then followed the butterfly until it landed on a bright green leaf right next to a puddle on the rainforest floor. The butterfly was catching the sunrays with its wings spread wide open. There was no doubt, this would be the perfect picture and I remember jokingly pushing Ibu Evi aside to secure the best angle to shoot from. Slowly I raised my camera and I was ready, set and…a big hairy orange hand appeared on my screen trying to catch the subject of our photo. The butterfly quickly moved its wings and flew away.
The hand belonged to orangutan Allisson, who loves to be in the center of attention. Well, she managed…again! I ended up with yet another picture of Allisson’s hairy orange hand and an unrecognizable moving object escaping the picture. Allisson definitely has a special talent here. She is capable of observing us, while we are observing an insect, without us having any clue that we are being observed. She will then move her focus to the object that we are observing…by now she knows that it’s usually a tasty insect snack. So, just when we think no one is around and we begin bringing this beautiful insect into focus, Allisson will have already had her own focus on the insect. While we struggle to get our zoom and other settings just right, Allisson will strike, and more often than not, successfully grab the subject and eat it right in front of us! She has done this with caterpillars, crickets, dragonflies and other insects. For the sake of the diversity of wildlife in the Learning Forest, we were considering finding another hobby, but at the end of the day…it’s the circle of life and finding tasty insects to eat in the forest is a great skill for Allisson to develop.”