With The Great Orangutan Project on offer, alongside the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project and the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary, in honour of Orangutan Awareness Week, we thought we’d introduce to some of The Great Orangutan Project's, great orangutans!
Aman is a rather famous face with an interesting history. He was bought from a market in 1989, estimated to be 1 year old. He was later surrendered and sent to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre where he was released into a semi-wild setting. However, he soon showed that he was a very humanised orangutan. He was rarely seen in the trees and often found investigating the environments of people. After wandering outside of Semenggoh and into a nearby construction site, Aman bit through a mains power cable causing cataracts to develop. With complete loss of sight, Aman could no longer remain in the semi-wild and was transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre in 1997. He remained blind for a further 10 years before making history in 2007 when he became the first orangutan in the world to undergo cataract surgery, which completely restored his vision!
Unfortunately, he proved that he was not adept at manoeuvring safely in the forest, and as such a big and humanised orangutan, he would be a huge hazard to himself and others if he were to be released into the wild. Aman is well known for his charismatic personality and for this reason (along with his rather impressive cheek-pads) he has more than his fair share of admirers.
As a young orphan orangutan, George was surrendered to Semenggoh Wildlife Centre and released into the semi-wild. He adapted very well to life in the semi-wild and developed excellent jungle skills. He also showed very little interest in humans, which is key to successful rehabilitation.
Though as George grew older, he developed into a flanged, dominant male, and wasn’t the only orangutan to do so. An orangutan named Ritchie had also developed into a dominant male. For both to be in one area, it meant constant war with each other and over the years, George suffered from a severely broken wrist, numerous superficial wounds and lost sight in one eye. Each injury picked up seemed to give Ritchie cause to press his advantage and the incidents of fighting increased with George’s injuries getting worse. Finally, in 2008, the decision was made to relocate George to Matang Wildlife Centre, as it was predicted that eventually, Ritchie would kill him. George is a bit of a ladies’ man, in 2008 he fathered two healthy boys when he was mixed with adult females Chiam and Ganti before they were given contraception. It is likely George could sire more offspring in the future as he may be able to return to a semi-wild life, the challenge though is finding a suitable area to release him.
Carlos was transferred to Matang Wildlife Centre in 2018. The exact details of Carlos’ history are not entirely clear, although the team know that he was previously kept at a tourist resort since he was just a few years old.
As Carlos arrived as a fully-grown, flanged male it has taken the team a while to get to know Carlos’ personality, but recently it has been nice to see that his playful personality is shining through, especially after all those years being used as an attraction. We now know that Carlos is a huge fan of all types of novel enrichment such as bubbles and chalk, and he loves his banana leaves! Rather than making a nest, Carlos prefers to wrap the leaves around himself or roll onto his back and simply have some fun.
Age: 35-39 approx.
Peter was confiscated from private ownership in 2009, along with another adult female named Catherine. Peter was kept in a small cage for the long years that he was held as a pet and given a poor and basic diet. He was extremely underweight on arrival to MWC and had many intestinal parasites. We estimated him to be in his mid to late thirties upon arrival, yet he was still a very small male - not a flanged, dominant male as would be expected for a captive male of Peter’s age. Within two years at the centre, with proper care and an adequate diet, Peter developed into a dominant male.
Ohm was sadly poached from the wild at a young age, his mother was killed by humans in order to separate the valuable infant and sell into trade possibly for use in shows, zoos or hotel entertainment. Thankfully in 2011, Ohm, along with Sandi and Maria, were rescued and transferred here.
During his time in quarantine upon arrival, Ohm quickly showed himself to be incredibly smart and mischievous. Many a hose, broom and bucket were stolen in this time. Despite enduring years of exploitation Ohm remains extremely charismatic and inquisitive and has adapted well to sanctuary life. He is a meticulous nest builder - he loves receiving newspapers and cardboard boxes and he will rip these items up and weave them together in a very particular way to create the perfect nest.
Doris was born at the centre in 2000, but subsequently lost her parents and was raised by humans. Unfortunately, due to tourist demand, when she was young and “safe” Doris was used for photo opportunities with the many tourists who passed through. The centre was able to stop this unethical practice in 2008 and developed a ‘NO CONTACT POLICY’ in order to re-prioritise the best interest of the animals and better focus on creating an environment for them that decreased humanisation for the best chance of success in rehabilitation for all species.
Bunyau arrived at the centre in December 2013. He had been kept as a pet for an unknown period of time. When he arrived, Bunyau was in a critical condition. Based on his dentition, it is estimated that he was about one year old, yet he was severely malnourished and had the body size of just a three-month-old baby. With round-the-clock care from a small team of staff, Bunyau regained his health and went from strength to strength!
Simanggang was only a few weeks old when he arrived at the centre. With fragments of the bullets that killed his mum lodged inside his tiny body, he was in critical condition. We did not expect this little orphan to survive and were aware that if any of the pellets inside him were to move around, they could damage any of his vital organs and be a certain cause of death. Because of the risk, we were incredibly cautious in taking care of this orangutan. A small team of staff provided 24-hour care for him for several months and Simanggang grew from strength to strength, steadily gaining weight and showing no significant emotional trauma to reflect his past.
For several years he accompanied three other young orangs to the forest each day. Whilst Simanggang learned skills from the more experienced youngsters there is no doubt that the loss of his mother at such a young age and his subsequent habituation to humans are factors that made his release effort unsuccessful.
Doc was born in the semi-wild setting of Semenggoh Wildlife Centre. Sadly, his mother died while he was still a dependant youngster, and we believe he had been alone in the forest for a number of days before he was found. He was transferred to MWC and was very dehydrated, malnourished and traumatised upon arrival. When he had recovered from his initial trauma and put on some weight, he was introduced to two other orphaned orangs, Simanggang and Lingga. In 2014, Doc was mixed with a new and younger arrival, a male orangutan named Bunyau. Doc showed himself to be a friendly, nurturing and patient orangutan to his younger playmate.
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Come face to face with one of the world’s most misunderstood predators whilst aiding great white shark conservation. As a volunteer, not only will you get the incredible opportunity to dive with sharks, but you will also assist the team in raising awareness of the great white as you work alongside tourists and local school children to provide them with knowledge of the local environment and the importance of living in harmony with South Africa’s marine life.
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