The sun had not risen, yet there we were already visiting Berlian’s nest. Berlian – whom we affectionately call “Bu Ber”, meaning Mrs. Ber (you will understand why as you read this article) – was also already up and about this morning, sitting leisurely on a high branch while enjoying her breakfast of persimmon fruits (Diospyros bornensis). Diospyros bornensis is also known as the ebony tree, or in Africa, is called the Jackalberry. The fruit of Diospyros bornensis is sweet; even we like it! It tastes a little bit like mangosteens. And this is one of Mrs. Ber’s favorite forest fruits. So she surely took her time as she slowly moved from tree to tree and quietly ate and ate for the next 3 hours!
Orangutans in general do spend most of their time eating. So Mrs. Ber’s behavior is actually normal. Some of her favorite forest meals consist of liana fruits and rattan shoots. In between feeding herself, Mrs. Ber took several rests, sitting sleepily on branches or just dangling lazily in a tree.
But then… she found some red liana fruits (Lea indica). Things suddenly got interesting. It was indeed the right season for red liana fruits and, apparently, they are a popular “snack” for orangutans. When they are raw, they are green in color. As they ripen, they turn reddish black. These fruits are usually found on large liana roots that tightly wrap the tree trunk.
Mrs. Ber was so happy when she ran into a liana tree full of these red fruits. She spent quite some time picking and eating these fruits. But after she was all done, we saw her taking some dry leaves off a tree and then wiping her mouth with them!
As it turned out, the liana fruits – though the orangutans obviously think very highly of – are covered by glue-like secretion, like a gum. So just like we clean our mouths using tissues after a meal, Mrs. Ber uses the dry leaves to clean up all the sticky gum around her mouth. This is why we call her Mrs. Ber, because she is such a typical lady who just can’t stand being dirty and icky!
On another occasion, we also observed Mrs. Ber using a medium-length twig to lower fruits that were out of her reach. Mrs. Ber is indeed a very cultured orangutan.