Get to Know Our Orangutan Observers

Tracking the orangutan (photo by: Gondanisam)

Early morning, when most people are still enjoying their good night’s sleep, we are already up, leaving camp and going into the forest. We make sure to arrive before orangutans get up and leave their nest. It is not an easy task, but this is our contribution to mother nature. It may be a small, but we believe great things start from something small.

Day to day, we try to match the agility of the orangutans. Quite often we have to follow them up and down the cliff. It’s really challenging and exhausting at the same time. But that’s what we do to ensure that the orangutans are fine, healthy and happy.

During the day, when our energy is low and drowsiness begins to attack, we have no choice but to continue to follow these orangutans. However, we love what we do and we simply shake off our sleepiness by joking around with one another. Nevertheless, we must also remain focused on the orangutans because if we miss a moment, we will lose track of them. We also keep taking pictures of the orangutans, because observing orangutan is a fun and it is delightful to capture many of their playful and amusing behaviors.

We find many interesting things every day. It’s amazing to see how orangutans eat young rattan leaves (Calamus manan) and how they manipulate the rattans to avoid getting any of the thorns in their mouths. Then, they will continue to explore the forest in search of food. Orangutans are also very skillful navigator and they always remember the areas that they have passed.

When evening comes, we wait until the orangutans finish making their nest. Even though mosquitoes and hagas (a kind of small mosquitoes) begin biting our faces, hands and legs, we don’t give up before we are sure that the orangutans sleep in the nests. After ensuring the orangutans peacefully sleep in the nests, we walk back to camp. Our duty that day is finished, we are so glad to see the orangutans are able to survive in their true home.

We always face joy and pain together, because togetherness is our strength. We support and complement each other. Here we were, doing something that is hopefully useful to the nation and, of course, the orangutans. We can’t wait for tomorrow and learn many more new things from these wonderful orangutans!

Greeting from the forest! (photo by: Gondanisam)


One Day with Pretty Casey


It was still very early when we arrived at the tree where Casey’s nest was located. This beautiful little lady was still deeply asleep. In addition to cold weather, the rushing waters of the Soh river and Gunung Belah river seemed to make Casey sleep very soundly on a nest in a tree.

At approximately 05:50, Casey the red-haired orangutan woke up and slowly got out of the nest. After looking around, Casey began to move to a fig tree next to her nest. Casey then sat on one of the branches and started enjoying the fig tree cambium bark. Almost an hour Casey sat there while continuing to chew bark.

Fig tree (Ficus sp) is also referred to as the tree of life. It has many benefits, one of which: its cambium bark contains water. Maybe Casey was thirsty, so she enjoyed sucking water out of the cambium bark.

Satisfied with her watery breakfast, Casey swung toward a breadfruit tree (Artocarpus sp), which was nearby. This tree is similar to the jackfruit tree; the fruit looks like jackfruit with smaller size and sharper scent. This was a second breakfast for Casey. She kept hanging on the tree, while enjoying its fruits. Sometimes she sat comfortably on one limb that was not far from the breadfruit. Once she was full, Casey returned to the fig tree and chewed on the bark again.

By noon, Casey slowly ventured through the forest, stopping occasionally to enjoy young rattan leaves (Calamus Manan) and Zingiber (Etlingera sp) – a type of forest ginger. But eventually, she stopped again at a fig tree. This time, Casey enjoyed the fruits of fig trees. In our observations, Casey always seems to be enjoying the fruits of fig trees at noon. The fig fruit is her favorite food. In addition to fig fruit, Casey also likes young gum leaves and young bamboo leaves.

In the evening, Casey started to make a nest in a geseng tree (Lithocarpus gracilis). Casey chose to use some bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium nidus) located in the geseng tree to build her nest. Have a good night, Casey!

Lesan, the Culinary Hunter

Lesan enjoying Bugis Wood

Lesan can’t seem to stop eating. Although she keeps moving between trees, hanging around between branches and playing on the cliffs along the Soh River, Lesan always has something to chew, munch and crunch. This is, of course, a normal behavior of an orangutan. But her behavior is quite entertaining, indeed.

Lesan and her young rattan leaves

Koordersiodendron pinnatum
, often referred to as Bugis Wood, is her favorite food. It is a relative of cashew tree and the red wood is commonly used for building houses and ships. Throughout the day, Lesan likes to play in Bugis Wood trees while enjoying its fruits. One of most orangutans’ favorite food, Rambung (Ficus sp) that are found plentiful in the surroundings, are ignored by Lesan somehow. Rambung trees can grow very, very tall. The dense, rounded canopy and gracefully drooping branches of weeping fig made it popular as landscape trees. Most types of Ficus sp. also grow banyan roots naturally and their fruits are edible. But Lesan only just the Rambung trees and their roots to hang out while she enjoys Bugis Wood fruits. Other food that have been her favorites are young rattan leaves (Calamus manan) and Zingiber (Etlingera sp) – a type of forest ginger.

In the evening around 6 pm, when Lesan should be ready to make a new nest for her to sleep, the monitoring team saw that Lesan was still chewing some young bamboo leaves. One hour later, the team returned to camp, leaving Lesan still enjoying her food. Lesan seems to love her life in the forest, especially the food!