In the heart of Central Kalimantan’s pre-release Salat Island, we catch up with the charismatic big boy Beni. The morning ritual for this island resident involves hanging out by the canal’s edge, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the technicians’ boat that will deliver his daily dose of nourishment – fruits and vegetables, thoughtfully combined to meet the dietary needs of an adult orangutan.
On this particular day, Beni shares the canal’s lush banks with Cinta and Kejora. All three can be seen munching on the fresh grass that lines the fringes of the waterway. As the distinct sound of the boat echoes in the distance, they spring into action.
Beni, of course, anticipates that bananas are on the menu today. However, the technicians first lower cassava leaves to ensure the orangutans consume some roughage before indulging in the fruits, lest they disregard the vitamin-rich greens. Beni, Cinta, and Kejora oblige, nibbling on the leaves before the bananas descend. As soon as the bunches touch down, Beni quickly abandons his cassava leaves in favour of the sweet fruit.
On this scorching day, with the temperature soaring to 34 degrees Celsius, Beni has a unique way of beating the heat. As the boat gradually fades into the distance, Beni takes a refreshing plunge into the water, reviving a beloved habit from his Forest School days – taking mud baths! This delightful and familiar ritual was his absolute favourite pastime back then, a practice that has become an inseparable part of his identity. This remnant of his past adventures is a testament to his remarkable adaptability to this island environment, mirroring the skills he honed in Forest School.
Bathing in water or mud has many benefits for orangutans. In addition to cooling their bodies, being in water often means they will scoop it up to drink, or lick it from their hair – either way, it helps keep them adequately hydrated. Mud baths also cover the skin in sludge that acts as a natural bug repellent.
Male orangutans are known for their wanderlust, and Beni is a dedicated explorer on the more than 2,000-hectare Salat Island. His once-bulky frame has now transformed into a well-proportioned physique. Medical assessments and our animal welfare team have recorded his current Body Score at 3, indicating ideal health.
In terms of skills, Beni has displayed remarkable progress during his pre-release phase. This stage precedes actual reintroduction into the wild and relies heavily on the keen observations made by our team of technicians. While Beni’s scores may fluctuate, as is typical, he consistently demonstrates outstanding abilities, making him one of our star pupils on the path to release.
Despite still benefiting from the supplementary food provided by our technicians, Beni is both skilled and diligent in foraging for his own. Accustomed to the natural resources of Salat Island, he often consumes figs and wild guavas, and even snacks on grass, wood fibre, and termites as alternative sources of protein. This showcases the remarkable intelligence and adaptability of Beni as he navigates life in habitats that closely resemble the wild.
Text by: Communications Team, BOS Headquarters, Bogor, West Java
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