Enrichment is essential in keeping the orangutans in our care mentally engaged while learning vital skills. Dr Nadine Adrianna Sugianto, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, is working on the Orangutan Enclosure Design Tool (EDT) Project in collaboration with our parent organisation, the BOS Foundation. In the following text, she describes the importance and use of enrichment items.
When orangutans are out and about in Forest School at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Central Kalimantan, they are provided with food-based enrichment items that prompt them to explore, discover, and extract food. The items require them to put some effort and thought into how to forage for food before reaping a delicious ‘reward’. This is an essential part of cognitive development and skills acquisition.
In the photo, orangutans were given a piece of bamboo with a frozen pumpkin filling. To obtain the inner filling of the bamboo, the orangutans had to either insert their fingers to poke it out or use some sort of tool to dig it out. The ways in which these Forest School students extracted the pumpkin varied from individual to individual.
Paulinus (pictured in the middle), one of the smallest orangutans in Forest School Group 3, preferred to use his fingers to dig the yummy frozen pumpkin out of the bamboo shell. Alexandra (on the right), on the other hand, wasn’t quite sure how to proceed in eating the treat; hence she closely watched Paulinus to learn how he would access the tasty treat.
Observation is one of the many ways these great apes learn from each other socially, with proximity to the activity being undertaken within two metres and a keen focus on the demonstrator’s actions. Nevertheless, some orangutans try to not rely on watching others but rather will try to figure things out on their own. Like Bumi, pictured here at the back and to the left, who has a very confused look on his face.
It is only because of our wonderful supporters that we can provide enrichment and care to the orangutans in our centres. Would you like to help us by symbolically adopting one of the Forest School students?