Forest School Update - 8 Baby Orangutans Have Graduated!

Forest School Update - 8 Baby Orangutans Have Graduated!

Posted by Connor Whelan on 24th Jun 2016

We have some amazing news to bring you as 8 baby orangutans graduated from the baby house up to Forest School 1 at the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Centre in Borneo!

What Is Forest School?

Every single year in Borneo many orangutans have to be rescued from either the illegal pet trade or from starvation due to their habitat being destroyed. The majority of these apes are very young orangutans whose mothers have been killed, leaving the baby to fend for itself.

Fortunately for the baby orangutans, this is where the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation helps. BOSF has an amazing programme which aims to not only rescue, but to also rehabilitate the young orangutans with the intention of releasing them into the wild.

This however is no easy task, as in the wild baby orangutans spend the first seven years of their lives with their mothers, learning all of the skills needed to survive and flourish in the wild. That is why a dedicated Forest School was set up to help the apes.

The rehabilitation process begins in the aptly named baby house where all of the youngest orangutans (those between 0-4 years of age) stay after being rescued. The main goal for this stage of Forest School is to let the youngsters build a bond with both the other orangutans and their human surrogate mothers. Every day the babies get to play in the forest, learning to climb and explore. At this stage of Forest School, the orangutans get a lot of contact with their female surrogate mothers as they would have done with their natural mothers. This period of a baby’s life is all about playing and having fun, so this is what the staff at the centre ensure happens!

Once the babies reach the age of around 3 to 4 they then leave the baby house and are ready to graduate into Forest School. This is where the real work begins. Here they will learn how to:

  • Nest as they would in the wild by gathering sticks and leaves
  • Differentiate between food sources that they can and can’t eat including fruits and termites
  • Be wary of threats they will find in the forest such as snakes

Baby orangutans

Here we see one of the orangutan surrogate mothers helping Harriet and Pedro to learn which fruits they can eat.

As well as learning these behaviours, the young orangutans spend most of their time climbing trees in search of forest fruits as this is a very important skill that will be needed upon their release into the wild.

Borneo orangutans

The keepers encouraging the young orangutans to climb trees.

There are more orangutans in this stage of Forest School than there are in the baby house, so the potential for socialisation with other orangutans and the chance to learn from some of the older apes is much higher. However, not everything can be learned from older apes and the keepers are still needed here!

As orangutans are often scared of male humans instinctively, the sanctuary utilises the tactic of sending the male keepers in with the orangutans to encourage the apes to climb up the trees! This works well as it not only encourages their natural tree climbing behaviour, but it also reinforces a fear of humans which will be crucial to their survival in the wild.

Meet The 8 Orangutan Graduates!

The 8 young orangutans who have graduated from the baby house up to Forest School 1 are slowly learning all of the skills they will need to flourish out in the wild, but that is not to say that some aren’t learning a little quicker than others! All of the babies are becoming quite mischievous, so please forgive us for not managing to get a good enough picture of all of them yet!

Three of the orphans who came up are already exhibiting fantastic forest skills, and they love nothing more than to forage around the tree tops in search for food. These three are:





However the five other orangutans who graduated with them are still learning all of the skills they will one day need. This is not a problem as they will be taught them over the next couple of years, but it may just take a little bit longer than it will for the three superstars we mentioned above! The five in this group are:







Baby orangutan

Last week (the 22nd June) was the first time that these 8 young orangutans were able to venture into the forest to explore and learn. At first there were a few tentative and nervous steps, but soon enough they were all throwing themselves around the canopy floor as if they had lived there all of their lives! The older graduates who were also in the forest took some time to inspect the new recruits, but they had no problem inducting them into the orangutan family.

One of the orangutans to stand out in particular was Anthony, and he showed no hesitation in demonstrating his boisterousness to some of the older orangutans! He, along with the seven other graduates had an amazing time on their first adventure onto the forest floor!

These orphans will stay in forest school for around two years if their skillsets increase at the usual rate, but the staff will be there to help them as long as is needed. Over the time they are in this and the next stage of Forest School, human contact will gradually be reduced with the human surrogate mother figures being taken away, and only the male keepers remaining (who do not share the same motherly instincts towards the apes.) This is the best way that the orangutans can be prepared for release into the wild.

We will be sure to keep you updated with any developments we hear regarding the energetic 8, so keep your eyes peeled for our next post!

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Richard Lloyd commented 5 years ago
Do you have any type of adoption schemes to help fund your amazing project?

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Ashleigh Brown commented 5 years ago
Hi I want to find out how I go about volunteering and what cost it would be. Thank you

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