A procession of orangutans from Pondok Dua head off to the Learning Forest with the caregivers. Dodot peers over the shoulder of the caregiver holding her, and her lovely brown eyes are somewhat curious. When the group reaches the edge of the trees, Dodot’s attention is drawn to the forest. For a time, it’s as if all she can see is her birthright, the Bornean jungle. Within minutes, Dodot is in the canopy of the trees, barely visible through the thick foliage.
Compared to her peers, infants on the brink of the juvenile stage, Dodot stands apart. She is not very interested in friendships with other orangutans or in making a connection with her caregivers. She’s content living in her own world, and doesn’t seem to need to check in with her caregivers for reassurance. Despite her more reclusive nature, Dodot does come down from the canopy from time to time out of curiosity.
Dodot doesn’t like most of the fruit that is given out for meals at the care center, including pineapples, lychees, mangoes, and passion fruit. The one exception is bananas. This is stressful to the caregivers, who would like to see her put on a little weight. But her thick and glossy hair, along with her bright, alert eyes, gives her a healthful look. In the forest, Dodot gets much of the protein and vitamins she needs from her favorite snack of young leaves. During her days spent in OFI’s “forest school,” Dodot has proved herself to be very adept at acclimating to life in the forest. She has already learned how to make a nest, forage for food, and use large leaves as shelter from the rain and the sun.
On this day, Dodot came down to play in the pools that have formed in the peat swamp during the current rainy season. She was joined by orangutan Maue-Kay, and together they beat the water rhythmically with such effort and concentration that it seemed they had a collective goal in mind. Afterwards, Dodot scrubbed herself vigorously with the water, even though she had a bath awaiting her once she returned to her Pondok for feeding time.
As most of the orangutans in the care of OFI come in as orphaned infants, it is a challenge for them to learn the skills for life in the wild that they would have learned from their mothers. This makes Dodot’s level of comfort in the forest that much more inspiring. She seems poised for a successful release when she’s old enough, allowing the caregivers to spend more time with the infants that need a little more help in forest school. In the meantime, Dodot will continue to grow and thrive, swinging expertly through the canopy like she was born to do.