Orangutans: Change is Good!

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This photo of Satu was taken in June.

It has been more than six months since orangutan Clyde left the San Diego Zoo for Kansas, and I am happy to say that things could not be going better both here and in Kansas at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure! (See Tanya’s previous post, Changes for Orangutans.) After his initial quarantine period, Clyde was introduced to his new exhibit and Rusa, his new, potential “girlfriend.” Both took to each other, and no problems have been observed between them. Previously, Rusa had been paired with younger males, and they were not to her liking. With Clyde, she immediately solicited him, choosing to be close to him (a behavior not seen with her before). In fact, the only issues the keepers there have reported is difficulty is getting them to separate from one another for husbandry needs. It is so great knowing that Clyde is doing so well and that the keepers at his new zoo love him and are taking such great care of him.

Our own introductions with Karen and Satu went with little of the issues we were expecting. Satu was excited to be with Karen and chose to spend nights with her, especially at the beginning. But a lot of the breeding behavior that we were worried about never became an issue. Karen would submit to Satu, and we had little-to-no rough behavior. Karen does have hair loss on her back as a result of her contact with Satu, but since the breeding has decreased in duration and frequency, we expect her hair to grow back in soon.

It was the girls that had to work out their issues. Orangutans are solitary by nature, and females do not interact with each other. With three females on exhibit, they had to work out territory and tolerance for each other. We have noticed an increased use of the exhibit by Indah, and anyone who has spent any time watching the orangutans can tell you that Indah has her favorite spot and tends to stay there. We are very happy about this turn of events, as it lets us know that she is more comfortable in the exhibit without Clyde in the area.

We can already see changes in Satu as he grows into adulthood. His hair is longer, more wavy, and forming dreadlocks. His weight is up (190 pounds or 86 kilograms now!), and his checkpads continue to get larger. He is becoming an adult! Fortunately, he is keeping his same, sweet behavior. He has father Clyde’s disposition. Keep watch at the orangutan and siamang exhibit for more changes to come with Satu.

Tanya Howard is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.