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Orangutans must learn and develop their repertoire of survival skills before being released into the wild. Learning to compete with other orangutans over resources is an essential skill they need to master to become independent. However, some individuals are more competitive than others, as you will learn below.

Competition occurs naturally and is a regular part of maintaining the social hierarchy. Limited availability of food is one of the main reasons for competition amongst orangutans. On Badak Besar Island, a pre-release island in the Salat Island Cluster in Central Kalimantan, orangutans require sound foraging skills to pass this rehabilitation stage.

Friendship only goes so far. Valentino (left) and Cinta (right) are waiting for our technicians to deliver the food.

When our technicians arrive at the island feeding platforms to deliver the supplementary food, they often witness competition for food amongst the orangutan inhabitants. While some have formed close relationships and are good friends, it is everyone for themselves when it comes to food. Chums can quickly turn into challengers when favourite snacks are on the line. Cinta and Valentino, for example, were seen fighting over food recently. The two are quite friendly toward each other in the forest, but they will suddenly engage in fierce competition at the feeding platform when it is time to eat.

There are winners and losers in any competition, and in this case, the winners get the right to claim the best pieces of fruit. Typically, the larger orangutans, like Cinta, get the first pick. The less successful ones are left to scavenge through the leftovers or forage independently.

One morning, Valentino and Cinta were waiting at the edge of a feeding platform. When the technicians approached in a longboat to unload fruit at the platform, little Valentino snatched some fruit and attempted to run off with it. However, big Cinta had other plans and quickly snatched them from his hands. 

Cinta and Valentino often explore the island together, but that doesn’t mean Valentino is willing to lose food to his buddy. He immediately jumped to reclaim his fruit from Cinta, who was prepared for Valentino’s resistance. She bolted up the nearest tree and perched in the top canopy, leaving Valentino no other choice but to retrieve scraps left on the feeding platform. 

Not all orangutans like to compete fiercely over food. There are orangutans, like Dilla, who don’t like confrontation and prefer to wait for the others to grab their share before they move in to collect the remaining fruit. Despite Dilla’s reluctance to compete for food, there will inevitably come a time when she will need to show her competitive side to the other orangutans on the island.

We are delighted to share the progress of our red cousins living on the forested islands, and we can’t wait to bring you more stories.

Please consider a donation if you would like to help us feed, monitor and support Cinta and Valentino on their final steps to freedom.

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