November 11 through 17 is International Orangutan Caring Week (OCW). OCW’s mission is to build a "critical mass of concerned voices" each November to focus attention on the species through individual efforts. Rainforests and related ecosystems provide important services from climate moderation, to water quality and erosion control, to storehouses of genetic, species and ecological biodiversity. Rainforests need to be sustainably managed to maintain these services. OCW wants to inform citizens in communities across the world of this connection and continue to enlighten local people in areas near orangutan habitats.
During this year’s Orangutan Caring Week, we are profiling the Sumatran orangutans who make their home at OKC Zoo’s Great EscApe habitat: Negara, Elok and Toba. First up, Negara:
Female Sumatran orangutan Negara, 24, came to the OKC Zoo from Australia’s Perth Zoo in 2016. Her transfer was a Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Caretakers say she initially appears very serious but lets her guard down after getting to know you. Once that trust develops, Negara is silly and playful. She likes to spend her days outside on the large rock in her exhibit where she can see all the guests walk by.
Negara loves to eat cabbage and banana and her favorite enrichment item is called a fisher board. It is a small plastic square with holes drilled in. Caretakers put treats in the small holes so Negara has to use a tool to “fish” for the item. She is an excellent tool maker and quickly figures out how to retrieve the treats.
Sumatran orangutans are considered critically endangered in the wild. Globally, 60 percent of primate species are now threatened with extinction and 75 percent have declining populations. This condition exists due extensive habitat loss, increased bushmeat hunting and illegal trade. The Zoo is playing an increasingly critical role in saving wildlife, including orangutans. In 2016, the Zoo partnered with Rainforest Trust to buy and protect over 200,000 acres of forest in Sumatra, which provides habitat for orangutans and is the only reintroduction site for orangutans in the area.
If you are interested in helping wild orangutans, you can do so by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Membership dollars are used to fund the Zoo’s major conservation efforts. Also, at any gift shop or food stand, you can ask to “Round Up for Conservation” which simply rounds up your total amount to the nearest dollar. Since 2011, Round Up for Conservation program generated more than $350,000, a portion of which helped fund the purchase of the rainforest acreage in central Sumatra. Your “small” amount of change is combined into a conservation fund that helps the Zoo donate to different causes around the world. Another way to help orangutans is to download Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's Palm Oil Shopping Guide mobile application, available for Android and iPhone users. This mobile app helps individuals at the grocery store to make orangutan-friendly choices by purchasing products made from sustainable palm oil with the scan of a bar code!
By: Pace Frank, Great EscApe animal caretaker
Photos by: Andrea Johnson