Wild orang-utans suffered yet another blow recently, as it was announced on the IUCN red list of threatened species that the Bornean orang-utan’s status has been upgraded to critically endangered. The Bornean orang-utan now joins his Sumatran cousin in this category, meaning they are at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. The Sumatran orang-utan dwells only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, and has held critically endangered status since 2000, with an estimated wild population of less than 8000. The wild population is under threat from loss of habitat through deforestation, and illegal hunting. Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset is the home to three orphaned Sumatran orang-utans, in its capacity as the official European Orang-utan Crèche. Two of these, Bulu-Mata and Reike, have recently graduated from the crèche to the Orang-utan Nursery, where they are now living full time with their adopted orang-utan family.
Bulu-Mata came to Monkey World from Budapest Zoo in December 2015, after his mother died unexpectedly. He was shortly joined by adoptive sister Rieke, who came from Berlin Zoo in February 2016 after her mother sadly rejected her at birth. Monkey World is highly experienced in hand rearing orang-utans, and so both infants were cared for by Primate Care Staff until they were strong enough to climb confidently around the crèche playroom and join the rest of the orang-utans in the nursery. They have joined fellow Sumatran orang-utan Silvestre, as well as two Bornean adult females, Hsaio-quai and Oshine. Also in their adopted family are youngsters Jin and Awan.
At only 2 and 1.5 years old, both Bulu Mata and Rieke should still be carried by their mothers. Before they could join the others in the orang-utan crèche they needed to be strong and confident climbers as they do not have their mothers protecting them up high in the specially designed climbing frames at Monkey World. Rieke is braver than her older adoptive brother and rapidly scales the heights of the large outdoor enclosure climbing frame, closely followed by Bulu-Mata. The quick integration into their adoptive family is testament to the hard work and specialist care of the Primate Care Staff at Monkey World. The nursery family are vital for Bulu-Mata and Rieke to learn social and physical skills that will allow them to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adult orang-utans and one day start families of their own. As the survival of wild Sumatran orang-utan, and now Bornean orang-utans, is increasingly threatened, it becomes ever more crucial to the survival of the species that those in captivity are raised successfully to become breeding adults. Dr Alison Cronin, Director of Monkey World, said “These babies are precious and next to humans have the longest “childhood” out of any other monkeys or apes. They need to be with their mothers for up to 7 years. Monkey World specialises in providing orphan orang-utans, and others that have faced smuggling, abuse, or neglect, a stable specialist home with others of their own kind where they can develop into confident and healthy individuals. Tragically this is becoming less and less likely for wild orang-utans as their habitat is destroyed”.
Bulu-Mata and Rieke’s graduation coincides with the upcoming International Orang-utan day on Friday 19th August. Visitors to Monkey World can join the fight to save orang-utans in the wild, as throughout the day there will be talks, fun events and information, all in aid of fundraising for the Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme (SOCP). The SOCP funds a number of projects which aim to support habitat protection, rehabilitation projects and orphan care centres in Sumatra. Those blessed with orang-utan coloured hair, be it natural, wigged or dyed, will benefit from discounted entry to Monkey World on International Orang-utan Day. Monkey World encourages visitors to embrace all things orang-utan for the day, as well as to catch up on the incredible progress of the red headed infants, Bulu-Mata and Rieke.