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Orangutan of the Month: Yayat

In 1987, when I first came to Camp Leakey as an Earthwatch volunteer, there were three sub-adult orangutans in camp: Pola, Yayat, and Kusasi. Two years later, I was in a kelotok which was carrying an Earthwatch team to Kumai on the first leg of their trip home. Suddenly, a speedboat pulled up alongside. It had been sent to rush back to camp two members of the team: Ellen Goff and Christae Mielock, both nurses.

We were told that Yayat had fought with another sub-adult, and that his belly had been torn open and his intestines were hanging out. Fortunately, that turned out to be not entirely true. Yayat had a gash, about two inches long, on the left side of his abdomen, but the wound had not penetrated the membrane that surrounds the abdominal cavity. What was protruding was a section of that membrane.

The nurses could not treat Yayat immediately because he had climbed a tree, retired to a nest, and could not be dislodged. The next morning, Yayat was sedated, the nurses pushed the membrane back into place and, with some difficulty because of his tough skin, sewed the wound shut. He was put into a cage from which he escaped into the forest, not to appear again for several months, apparently in good health.

He went on the become one of the “kings” of Camp Leakey, after Pola, who was the first of the three to become an adult. However, when Kusasi became a “cheekpadder”, Yayat, who reached adulthood before Kusasi and who had been dominant over him, was no longer a match for him and abdicated in favor of the new king.

Yayat still appears in Camp Leakey from time to time, but leaves when Kusasi shows up.

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