Behind the scenes with Biji
Zoo Atlanta is home to one of the largest zoological populations of orangutans in North America, with 11 individuals living in four distinct groups. We have a number of orangutan habitats which can be seen by our visitors, as well as others which are not as visible. Some guests may have caught a glimpse of the special individual who prefers to use one of these. Biji is a female Sumatran orangutan and, at 47 years old, is the oldest orangutan at Zoo Atlanta.
Orangutans are solitary, spending the majority of their adult lives on their own rather than in groups, although many of the orangutans here at the Zoo seem to enjoy living with other group members. Biji prefers not to live in a group, however, and would rather have a habitat to herself. She spends most of her time in Orangutan Habitat 3. That habitat doesn’t have a viewing area, but many observers of Orangutan Habitat 2 may see her in the distance at the top of her climbing structure, watching the action next door. Because Biji is an older individual, she also has more stringent weather and temperature guidelines than some of her younger peers do.
Taking care of a geriatric individual like Biji requires some extra work. Like some geriatric humans, she receives special medications and dietary items for her health. She is also specially trained for regular voluntary urine and blood collection so that we can monitor her well-being and make changes to her daily routine if needed.
Despite her advanced age, Biji is actually one of the more playful orangutans here. She loves to interact with a huge variety of enrichment items. Some of her favorite include picture books, weaving toys, puzzles, water misters and bubbles. One of the best parts of my day is being able to create enriching experiences for Biji, because it really gives me an opportunity to express some creativity on the job in a way that promotes Biji’s well-being. It also comes in handy to have some many special items for her when we do have days of less-than-ideal weather if Biji needs to stay inside.
So next time you find yourself viewing our orangutan habitats, take a moment to look in the distance, and you might catch a glimpse of Biji peeking over the edge of her hammock back at you.
Keeper II, Primates