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, the OKC Zoo is profiling the Sumatran orangutans who make their home at the Great EscApe habitat: Negara, Elok and Toba. Meet Toba:
Toba is a 51-year-old female Sumatran orangutan who arrived at the OKC Zoo in 1975 from Germany's Nuremberg Zoo. Her 43-year tenure at the OKC Zoo is among the longest at the Zoo. An unnamed female Australian snake-necked turtle holds the record for longest residency: 52 years. Toba is the oldest zoo-born orangutan in her species survival plan (SSP) and has four offspring who have subsequently produced two generations of offspring.
She is best known to Zoo guests for her love of blankets and rarely seen without one covering her head. As a result, her caretakers say that she has a different "bedhead" hairstyle daily. They also report that Toba loves her "manicures" which keep her nails from overgrowing.
One of her favorite enrichment activities is painting. Using non-toxic paint and brushes, she will spend hours painting the walls and structures in her habitat with bright colors. Some of her favorite foods include green beans, hard-boiled eggs and romaine lettuce.
Visitors to the Zoo are likely to find Toba napping in her outdoor habitat at Great EscApe, wrapped up in a big, fluffy blanket.
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: Stephanie Smith, Great EscApe animal caretaker
Photos by: Andrea Johnson