Every morning, the young orangutans at Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre make their way to Forest School, where they learn the skills needed to one day be able to return home to the rainforest. The journey to Forest School is always eventful and it is easy to notice which of the orphaned orangutans are the leaders of the pack.
“Yooo! Buah, yooo!”, call out the caregivers every morning at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, to get the attention of the young orangutans. The call signals to the orangutans that it is time for their morning fruit and to head out to forest school. Mornings are typically a busy, chaotic time at the centre, but the caregivers enjoy the buzz and excited energy the young orangutans exude as they prepare for a day of discovery in the forest!
The fruit call occurs at around 8 a.m. every morning, with the orangutans from Group 5 – who have to travel the furthest to get to their ‘classroom’ location – departing ahead of everyone else. Some of the orangutans are keen to go and play in the Forest School area, while others are motivated by the fruits carried by the caregivers. To an outsider, the daily commute to forest school might look a bit like organised chaos, but the dedicated caregivers know their students well and always manage to keep things in order.
The leader of the pack
If you travel alongside these orangutans on their journey to Forest School, you can usually tell which group members fancy themselves the leaders.
Last year, in Group 5, Beni loved to lead the group. However, he was often distracted by the fruits and mushrooms found along the path to Forest School, and would get upset if the caregivers led other orangutans past him while he was busy foraging. Beni clearly wanted to stay ahead of his group and once in a while the caregivers succumbed to his wishes to lead the group, despite his frequent pit stops along the way.
Meanwhile last year, in Group 4, there was no clear leader in the group. There was, however, the duo of Jelapat and Talaken, who took a liking to ‘piggybacking’ as their mode of transportation to school. On many occasions, the other members of Group 4 had to wait for Jelapat to catch up, as he struggled with Talaken clinging to his back.
During the same time in Group 3, Otong took the same approach as Beni. He always wanted to lead his group to forest school, and would whine just like Beni if any other orangutan rushed in front of him. However troublesome this was, the caregivers were always there to help and observe the development of their students’ behaviour, as a part of the growing process.
Beni is currently in the Socialisation Complex, in preparation for the next stage of rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Talaken and Jelapat have moved up to Group 5, and Otong has advanced to Group 4.