OOTM Orangutan Orangutan of the Month

Youth is a time when individuals are trying to find their way through life. It is a time of experimentation, trying new things, and seeing what suits us. Through exploration and challenge, young orangutan Mumui is learning more about herself and her surroundings. In her own way she follows the example of great explorers and pioneers such as Lewis and Clark or Ernest Shackleton. Thankfully, she doesn’t quite manage to lose herself in the forest for a couple of years in the process.

Every explorer needs to be prepared with the right accoutrements and know how. To that end Mumu’s caregivers are on hand to provide encouragement and sustenance. One thing Mumui doesn’t need though is a map. Unsure of which path to take, she settles for trying all of them. Using Camp Danielle, the Infant Nursery at the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ )as her base camp, Mumui sets off for adventure. 

Mumui in her formative years has taken to the forest like… well, an orangutan. She has pushed to the outer limits of the Learning Forest swinging from tree to tree, breaking branches, and climbing as high as she possibly can. Her eyes are locked on the horizon. She quickly finds and selects her favourite spots. She is easy enough to follow as a trail of twisted branches and leaves, strewn like the breadcrumbsof the old fairy tale Hansel and Gretel,are left in her wake. She has always been the first to leave her sleeping enclosure and the last to begrudgingly come back. She has already shown herself adept at the early stages of pitching up her own camp aka nest making. 

This young orphan’s journey began at the Center when she was brought in by the Indonesian Forestry Department. From the start she was a big and gangly-limbed infant who sported the most wonderful hair. It has only grown thicker over time.  One can easily pick her out from the crowd due to her “sideburns.” This is a shaggy look that almost eems a prerequisite for a rugged explorer, a true “person of the forest.” It also symbolises her sometimes rebellious nature. Mumui has never shown much interest in interacting with humans. This may make her seem aloof and unapproachable but behind this thin veneer, there is a clever, warm, and active orangutan. She has plenty of time for her fellow orangutans, enlisting them to join her on her expeditions. Mumui may have learnt how to tackle the forest and has built up her own self-confidence but she often forgets her own strength and how big she is. She is still just an infant at heart and wrestles and plays with her playmates regardless of their size. 

These days Mumui seems a little bit lost however. A little unfocused. This smart young orangutan is looking for the next challenge. She has explored all around the Camp Danielle Learning Forest. The broken trees and general disarray are a testament to this exploration. Where else is there to go for this voracious orangutan? She can be seen digging through the sand and mud. Maybe she has heard there is something down there worth seeing or she just likes covering herself from head to toe in mud.

Luckily the enrichment team recently stepped in to redesign and upgrade the Orangutan playground. This familiar area has been renewed and has provided Mumui a chance to explore it all over again and discover its new hidden treasures. Mumui will entertain herself rolling through the tires and rearranging rope made out of Kong balls. For Mumui it is like a puzzle with many different combinations she can shape into whatever she wants. At the very least, on a hot day the playground provides some welcome shelter from the sun.

Any explorer knows the importance of having enough rations to keep strength up andit can be said an orangutan marches on her stomach. So one way her caregivers guide Mumui is with food.She may sometimes seem unfocused so her caregivers have to give her a nudge. But once Mumui embarks on something she is committed.A well placed, small basket of fruit can bring out a procession of orangutans, following their caregivers who seem to resemble benevolent Pied Pipers. At the head of the procession is our very own pathfinder, Mumui.

Other times, on especially hot and tiring days, we provide coconuts. Mumui’s patience is limited  if she can’t get into the coconut immediately. Some orangutan youngsters struggle to solve the problem of how to open coconuts as though the fruits were Gordian knots. Mumui takes a direct approach. If she bashes a coconut on the ground with no result, she tries a different tack. Using her sharp teeth, she strips the outer shell of the coconut. She then bites a hole into the coarse inner shell and tilts her head back to drink the refreshing water within. A young male, Otan, approaches; he has his eye on the coconut Mumui is enjoying. He marches over and tries to claim it for himself. A tug of war ensues. All the time during this struggle Mumui keeps her mouth wrapped tightly around part of the coconut and carries on drinking. Nobody is going to stop her from enjoying this. Eventually once Mumui is satisfied she lets go. Otan can have her leftovers.

Being challenged brings out Mumui’s inner fighting spirit. She is determined to see a project through. She is also waiting for the next one to come along. As Mumui matures, her caregivers will continue to conjure up ways to keep her engaged and to provide her with  opportunities for new experiences. She still has plenty of time to work things out. Who knows how and where she will carve out her own niche? Maybe one day she will go off into unchartered territory or simply take up residence in an idyllic corner of the forest. There are so many possibilities for her. The path is hers to choose. In any case let’s hope there will be enough forest left in Borneo for Mumui  to continue exploring.

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