A mother orangutan cares for her offspring like a priceless treasure. Both mother and child will stay together for approximately 7-8 years until the child is ready to live independently. Life is not easy for the mother as she must forage for more food than usual to breastfeed while her baby clings to her body the entire time.
In August, the Post Release Monitoring Team (PRMT) observed this phenomenon when they were lucky enough to find Sayang and Padma roaming not too far from camp.
During observations, Padma mostly stayed in her mother’s arms and seemed a little uncomfortable with our presence, as she started breaking and throwing sticks at the team to show her displeasure. Sayang, meanwhile, watched on with little reaction. Perhaps she was allowing her daughter to step up and practise protecting herself from threats.
After a while, Sayang carried Padma down from the trees to the bank of the Pehpan River. The team followed them and to their surprise, watched Sayang take Padma across the river. Usually, orangutans avoid bodies of water as their high body density isn’t conducive to swimming. Sayang placed Padma on her back so she would not get wet, and there she remained in a safe position. Calmly but deftly, Sayang managed to safely carry Padma across the river.
It’s possible that Sayang perceived the team’s presence as a threat and sought to avoid them by moving across the river.
The team followed them to continue observations, and all was well.
We are losing orangutans at alarming rates, so every orangutan release helps build back the wild population and is a critical step to saving the species long term.
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