It’s International Orangutan Day and Adelaide Zoo Primate Keeper Pij Olijnyk is keen to tell us about Puspa and Kluet, the two Sumatran Orangutans who reside at Adelaide Zoo and how we can help them and their wild cousins…
“Orangutans are wonderfully intelligent, beautiful, fun and gentle creatures,” says Pij. “They have the most amazing problem solving abilities. We as keepers see this when we give them enrichment puzzles but also when they’re working through situations they stumble upon.
“For example, Kluet loves it when we pop on a DVD of other orangutans for him to watch. However, when the DVD player isn’t on, we’ve seen him craft a tool and reach through and grab the DVDs himself. He’s clever enough to try to work out the ‘problem’.
“Not only are they intelligent, they’re creative too. They enjoy painting, using touch screens and making artworks just like a child,” continues Pij.
Orangutans also have the skills to copy human nature and Puspa, in particular, likes to copy her keepers’ cleaning duties.
“She has her own equipment and cleans, scrubs and uses soapy water just like we do,” says Pij. “She’s definitely the more extrovert of the two, while Kluet is more introvert (more typical of orangutans).”
International Orangutan Day is marked annually to raise awareness of the critically endangered species which is threatened in the wild due to habitat loss caused primarily by logging, forest conversion for agriculture and the clearing of land for unsustainable palm oil plantations. Legislation in Sumatra prohibits the owning, killing or capture of orangutans, but poachers still hunt them, primarily for the illegal wildlife trade.
What can we do to help orangutans? “We all need to take steps to be proactive consumers,” says Pij. “Take a look at the products you buy in all areas of your lives, not just food shopping, and check that they use certified sustainable products. We as an organisation use our voice to apply pressure and educate companies – you can too. Use your consumer voice to make a difference where needed and of course, celebrate, praise and promote those that are doing well!
“Social media is also a great way to spread the word,” adds Pij.
“If there’s one thing I’d like people to take away from International Orangutan Day it’s that I hope everyone gets the chance to learn more about the species and understand how orangutans are ‘on our level’. I have total respect for them and how much they can teach us.”
- Zoos SA supports Wildlife Asia which raises funds for wildlife field programs in South East Asia. Projects focus on habitat protection, wildlife conservation and sustainable development. Partner organisations include The Orangutan Project, Free the Bears, Silvery Gibbon Project, Asian Rhino project and International Tiger Project.