Watermelon Easter Bunnies And A Treasure Hunt - Easter Enrichment For The Orangutans at Samboja Lestari!

Watermelon Easter Bunnies And A Treasure Hunt - Easter Enrichment For The Orangutans at Samboja Lestari!

Posted by Ellie Hutchin on 30th Mar 2018

The team at Samboja Lestari have been getting into the Easter spirit! Kate, the project coordinator, along with the rest of the staff and volunteers put together some fantastic Easter-themed enrichment for the orangutans resident on the man-made islands at the sanctuary!

Step One: Create The Enrichment

volunteer with orangutans

Stuffed Watermelon Easter Bunnies

orangutan enrichment and rehabilitation

Volunteers helped Kate to carve out the insides of watermelons. Leaves were then collected and woven to create bunny ears and whiskers, with various other materials inserted into the shells of the fruit to pose as facial features! Once this was completed, the empty shells were then filled with popcorn and cooked sweetcorn for the orangutans to forage through and enjoy.

The insides of the watermelon did not go to waste either – they were put into the freezer to make for some tasty ice block enrichment!

Easter Parcel Hunt

volunteer at samboja lestari

More colourful leaves were collected and then smeared with a small amount of cooked pumpkin. Once this was done, the leaves were woven into small parcels for the orangutans to pick apart to discover what tasty treat lies within!

while this enrichment is fun and festive, (and just plain adorable!) it is primarily a great way to keep the orangutans stimulated by engaging several of their natural senses. In a recent blog from Bron, project coordinator at The Great Orangutan Project, it was stated that enrichment activities much like this are not only good for cognitive stimulation in orangutans, but also for their mental health!

volunteer with animals abroad

Step Two: Distribute The Enrichment

volunteer with orangutans

Once the enrichment was completed, it then had to be distributed among the various man-made islands that surround the sanctuary. As many will know, these islands are home to some of the permanent residents at Samboja who for various reasons, will never be able to be released into the wild. This is why enrichment is so important for the great apes as it keeps them happy and stimulated - and the volunteers play a major role in this!

Samboja Lestari

Sam, another of the project facilitators was responsible for distributing the enrichment onto the islands. There are moats which separate them, and volunteers helped to move the boat from place to place to make sure all the orangutans received some Easter fun! However, Papa, who was released onto an island back in December with females Vera and Citra, was too territorial to allow Sam to put one on there for him!

Step Three: Orangutans Go Wild!

work with orangutans

Kate told us, “overall, the orangutans really liked their enrichment but most went and hid in the bushes to enjoy it. This could have been because it was a very hot day but also because it was something new to them which they wanted to enjoy on their own.” With most other watermelon based enrichment, the apes would destroy the shells, but with their Easter Bunnies they were extremely gentle and some even protected them with elaborate displays of strength! The apes also enjoyed foraging for the leaf parcels, and seemed extremely happy to discover them and taste what was waiting for them inside!

Romeo At Samboja Lestari

Here are a few of the reactions to the watermelon Easter Bunnies from some of the orangutans that reside on the islands at Samboja Lestari:

Romeo: Romeo put on a big display of strength, picked up his watermelon and retreated to the bushes to enjoy it - in other words, this was his watermelon Easter Bunny, and no one else’s!

Papa, Citra & Vera: Papa, as already mentioned, would not allow Sam to place an Easter Bunny for him, however, this allowed Citra and Vera to enjoy theirs in peace! The two lovely ladies sat together to enjoy their enrichment, and later on, Citra discovered the other Bunny which was left on the side of the island for Papa! However, the orangutans did enjoy discovering their Easter parcels too, so all was not lost for Papa.

Alohdoro & Anie: These orangutans brought smiles all round with their reactions to the Easter enrichment. Kate says, “they both looked like they were watching a movie whilst eating bowls of popcorn!”

We are so glad that the orangutans enjoyed their exciting Easter themed enrichment, and are excited to see what the Samboja team can think up for next year!

If you would like to know more about this project then please take a look at the project page.

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