Every morning at OFI’s Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine, a parade of orangutans moves from their night enclosures out into the 80 hectare forest owned by OFI. Here, the orangutans spend their days outside, ranging freely in the swamp forest. Every day the forest is buzzing with activity as the orangutans climb up into the canopy, walk along the boardwalk, play in swampy pools on the ground, hang around their caregivers, and rest in day nests that they’ve built for themselves. These orangutans range from funny and “naughty” to calm and sweet, and as they play in the forest, their individual personalities shine.
For people new to the Care Center, this scene full of young orangutan orphans can seem a bit overwhelming. Who could imagine such a scene with 30 orangutan juveniles all in one place, especially since in the wild mothers and their one or two dependent offspring are usually alone? In all the hubbub of so much activity and so many individuals, some orangutans might go unnoticed. There is one orangutan, however, who will always capture people’s attention: Krista.
Whenever Krista comes around the boardwalk or gets close to people, there is simply no way of not staring at her: Krista is simply beautiful. All orangutans are beautiful in their own way but Krista has a special beauty that correlates with her personality and spirit.
Krista has thick, glossy red hair that evenly covers her entire body. Around her face, her hair has grown into a perfect natural hairdo; long on the sides and short on top, with a nice fringe over her forehead. You would almost think Krista secretly visits a hair salon on her forest outings!
Framed by her hair, Krista’s face is benign, kind, and friendly. The soft whitish pink that circles her eyes and nose, her slightly smiling lips, and her deep brown eyes, forms a picture that is hard to forget.
Although Krista’s natural good looks make her a real eye catcher, this isn’t the only reason that she is our Orangutan of the Month. It is not a beauty contest here at the Care Center. We like to look beyond just appearances. In Krista we find, hidden behind her beauty, a gentle, playful, and curious young female orangutan.
Krista loves her daily outings to the Care Center forest. During this time, she climbs up into the forest canopy, exploring the trees, playing with branches and leaves, and foraging for “snacks”. In addition to these forest snacks, Krista likes to search the caregivers’ pockets for additional food.
Krista’s has a very interesting past. She is one of very few orangutans to have ever been born at the Care Center. Krista’s mom came to the Care Center as a young adolescent orphan after being rescued from a “house of ill repute” where she was illegally kept as a pet. When Krista was born, her mother showed no interest and refused to feed her. OFI staff therefore took over care for the newborn Krista and she has been raised with the other orphans at the Care Center. Krista’s mom has since been released back into the wild. But the irony is that, while at the Care Center, Krista’s mom would sometimes visit Krista and look at her as she was held in the arms of the human caregivers. It was as if she was saying, “You’re paid to look after the orangutan babies, you nannies, so now take care of mine.”
Over her years at the Care Center, Krista has grown into a beautiful and skillful orangutan, but still she likes to spend much time around the caregivers or on the ground. When she is not climbing or interacting with her caregivers, Krista likes to play with branches and sticks. Usually, Krista gathers together a collection of sticks and then proceeds to break them one at a time. She happily occupies herself this way while sitting on dry leaves in the forest or while standing knee deep in swamp water. She also likes to find hanging vines, and swing back and forth between trees. When she is tired of playing, she often builds a day nest in the canopy to rest in.
Krista still needs to learn to let go of her caregivers and venture deeper into the forest on her own. She certainly has the skills to explore the forest canopy. Luckily, her climbing, foraging, and nest building skills are well developed, so she just needs time to learn to be more independent and less interested in her caregivers.
Krista will steal the heart of anyone who meets her. Because of her charm, the staff at the OCCQ very much enjoys taking care of Krista. In the end however, we are all looking forward to the day that Krista will return to the wild. Once released, Krista will, for the first time in her life, experience the freedom and adventure that comes with living in the wild. She may even be reunited with her mother.