As you read the title of this article, the thought might have occurred to you that an orangutan climbing a tree is not really news worthy. We would normally agree; indeed, if we were to write a news item for every time that an orangutan climbs a tree at the Care Center, there would be no time left for rehabilitation, feeding, enrichment, or anything else! However, in the case of Hangki, climbing a tree is an amazing and extraordinary achievement.

Hangki was a rehabilitated ex-captive orangutan living comfortably in the wild when she was struck down by an unknown viral disease which left her paralyzed from the hips down. Subsequently, she was brought back to our Care Center. She has been living here for several years now, where she enjoys regular outings to the forest. While in the forest, Hangki takes things very slowly. Because she cannot move her legs, she gets around by using her arms to drag herself towards branches and tree trunks, or by doing some very unique head-over-feet summersaults. Most of Hangki´s movements and activities in the forest serve one sole purpose, and that is to find food!

Hangki summersaults

Hangki in the middle of one of her head-over-body summersaults

Over the years, several different caregivers have worked with Hangki and tried to improve her physical abilities and range of motion. A common exercise involved spreading treats around in the forest and keeping Hangki physically active by making her work to find these snacks. Using peanuts as rewards always led to the most success; there is very little that Hangki won’t do for a peanut! But whenever a peanut was hidden up in a tree, Hangki would turn to her caregiver with a look that seemed to say: “I’m not going all the way up there just for one tiny peanut!!”

Here at OFI, we have always believed that Hangki has the potential to once again climb trees. Because she had so much experience exploring the forest canopy before she was paralyzed and because of the well developed strength and flexibility that remain in her arms, we’ve always maintained high hopes that her time in the trees was not yet over. For Hangki, however, there never seemed a good enough reason for her to bother trying to climb trees. That, however, was before she was introduced to the rattan balls that our enrichment team makes! These wicker-like balls can be filled to the brink with peanuts and this made Hangki’s motivation to obtain the reward rise to new heights (literally)! When a rattan ball full of peanuts was positioned on a tree branch a few meters off the ground, Hangki gathered together all her strength and went for it! Take a look at the amazing results!!

Hangki the orangutan 02

Hangki grabs the first branch within reach and takes a good look at the rattan ball up in the tree (in the top right corner of the picture).

Hangki the orangutan 02

With the first flexing of her muscles, Hangki pulls herself upright and gets ready for a big climbing adventure

Hangki the orangutan 03

Hangki lifts herself completely from the ground while holding the first branch and then she slowly reaches higher.

Hangki the orangutan 04

With two hands firmly on the second branch, Hangki gets ready to pull herself up and towards the rattan ball. She is already halfway!

Hankgi the orangutan 05

After Hangki pulls herself up to the second branch, she doesn’t have the strength to cling onto it with one arm and to reach for the rattan ball with the other. Instead, she bites deep into the branch and uses her strong jaw to hold on.

Hangki the orangutan 05

As the branch begins to bend under the weight of big Hangki, she stretches out with her long arm and manages, with the very tips of her fingers, to push the rattan ball off the branch and into the soft grass.

Hangi the orangutan 06

The rattan ball is on the ground right in front of Hangki and she is very much looking forward to pulling it apart and obtaining the peanuts hidden inside. You would expect Hangki to drop to the ground immediately…

Hangki the orangutan 07

… but instead it seems as if Hangki is enjoying being in the trees once again and, just for the fun of it, she plays around a little more on the branches before landing on the ground to enjoy her treat.

And enjoy it, she does!

7 Comments

  • Rebecca Reeder
    2010-12-21 at 8:12 am

    How wonderful to see Hangki moving around! The series of photos are great and add a lot to the story. I particularly like the one of her seeming to enjoy just hanging in a tree. Peanuts do motivate this sweetie. The first time I saw her at the Care Center, she just lay flat in her enclosure even though I was distributing oranges and the other orangutans were excited, Hangki did not. I tried holding an orange slice next to her mouth- no response. But two days later when I brought peanuts and was a few feet away with Rosemary Orangutan, Hangkie very slowly extended her arm. Signs of progress such as you report are truly uplifting!

  • Ruth Linsky
    2010-12-22 at 12:46 pm

    THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! This is amazing news and truely brought joy to my heart. I know that being up in the trees again must also have brought joy to Hangkis heart aswell! Great idea putting a ratan ball up there! Many peanuts is definitely better than 1. I think Hangki would agree! Please keep up the great work! I will be rooting for Hangki to be among the trees again!

  • Janie
    2010-12-22 at 11:17 pm

    This is such happy news! As with everything, Hangki’s progress has been slow and gradual, but she has finally done it!
    Great work, Rowan and enrichment team, for achieving this victory! and kudos to Ms Ruth for showing us that Hangki really does have the will and motivation to do this, back in the summer.

  • Aime
    2010-12-28 at 4:21 pm

    This brought a tear to my eye. I remember all the work we did and how we saw so much improvement but had to leave her but seeing that now and that so much more work has gone on and now she is able to move like this… Heart warming! So happy to of seen this! Thank you! :) Xx

  • Sara Noble
    2010-12-29 at 8:27 am

    The orangutans never cease to amaze me! What a beautiful site!! Tears of joy once again!!

  • Bee ZZ
    2011-01-03 at 7:47 am

    How Beautiful!! Blessings for Hangki!

  • […] Hangki climbs once again! […]

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