Almost all orangutan babies who arrive with us are orphaned. Many of these infants are all too often traumatized as they were brutally separated from their mothers during their illegal capture. These orphaned orangutan babies then need go through a long rehabilitation process and be taken care of and nurtured by surrogate mothers; our dedicated babysitters. Arief is one of these young orangutans who lost his mother and is now being cared for in our orangutan center at Samboja Lestari. Whilst in Forest School, Arief met Long a 10-year old female orangutan who loves him like her son. This is a must-read emotional story from Samboja Lestari.
An Emotional Meet-Up
Within our Forest School Level 2 in Samboja Lestari, it is normal to see young orangutans playing or busy working on their other activities like foraging and nest building up in the trees. There are 32 orangutans here aged 5-8 years old. Each morning when these young orangutans wake up, they are brought out of their night-time enclosure and given a light breakfast. This starts them off for the day, but does not fill them up completely so that they are encouraged to forage for food in the forest, like a wild orangutan would. After a busy day our team provides additional fruits and other food supplements to make sure they receive a sufficient diet.
But there is this one special and emotional sight we have witnessed in Forest School Level 2: A 10-year old female orangutan carrying and busily tending to a 4-year old orangutan. This is an unusual occurrence because there are no mother and infant units roaming around free in Samboja Lestari. But these two orangutans are not mother and son. They are a female orangutan called Long from Forest School Level 2, and little Arief from Forest School Level 1.
The story of Long and Arief started when they first met in Forest School Level 1. Long played far enough from her own Forest School that she reached the younger school, Level 1 where Arief was and that was how the two met. Somehow, Long’s maternal instincts kicked in and she picked up and carried Arief in her arms. As a young orangutan who still desperately needed a mother, Arief willingly accepted Long’s invitation. Since then, they have been inseparable.
A good Mother and Teacher
Long has always been an independent orangutan. She rarely returns to her enclosure at night and instead prefers to build night nests in the trees. As such she is an excellent mother and teacher for Arief.
After living with Long for many months, Arief is now skillful in building his own nest, a skill that not even all Level 2 Forest School orangutans have developed. Since he started living with Long, Arief never comes back to his own night-time enclosure, but he shows up every once in a while and eats the fruits given by the technicians so our team can continually observe his condition.
Long only trusts Technician Angga. Angga is the only technician accepted by Long and Arief. Everytime they see Angga, Arief will come and see him and Long is accepting. But if it happens to be one of our other technicians, Long will instinctively protect Arief and even go as far as trying to bite them.
A Unique Relationship
Long and Arief’s story is unique. Normally a wild female orangutan would start to reproduce somewhere between the age of 13-15 years old. In the rehabilitation center, they reach maturity at an earlier age, but Long is no more than 10 years old and she voluntarily takes care of Arief, who is clearly a burden (literally) and has taken on complete responsibility for him.
This is an amazing and heartwarming story for us and hopefully this will be the start of a wonderful journey for Long and Arief. With Long’s independence, we hope to soon promote her Forest School Level 3, which is the last step before release. Will Arief continue to live with Long? We don’t know, but we will follow their unique relationship closely and see where it will take them.
Text by: Vet Fransiska Sulistyo
Photos by Suwardy, Communication BOSF – SL