Changes for Orangutans

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We expect to see some changes in Satu.

After being with us for more than 15 years, it is with both a happy and heavy heart that we say good-bye to Clyde, our “gentle giant” orangutan, as he goes to another zoo to be paired with a female there.

As a result of Clyde’s move, we will be able to have all of our orangutans on exhibit every day here at the San Diego Zoo. We are very happy to be able to do this and expect to see a few changes in our group dynamics with Karen joining Satu, Cinta, and Indah. We believe everything will work out well, but because Karen has been separated from Satu for over a year and a half, there are natural behaviors we will be seeing as they work out their relationship.

As a young male, Satu will be excited to see Karen and will want to breed with her. The sessions can be prolonged in duration, but this behavior is natural and will dissipate with time. It can be uncomfortable to watch; the best thing we can do is let them work out their relationship. Though the tendency will be to interfere, the more we do, the longer and more difficult the process could be. We will be having people there observing, making sure that everything proceeds as planned. We fully expect to have a happy, cohesive group of orangutans!

Another change that we will see is in Satu himself! Satu still has his subadult physical characteristics. Because he was with an adult male, the growth of his secondary male characteristics (cheek pads, long hair, and increase in muscle mass) has been suppressed. We are all excited to see the changes in Satu as he develops into an adult male orangutan and are curious to see how quickly they will happen once Clyde has left.

Tanya Howard is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.