New adventures in orangutan care
Hey everyone! My name is Emily, and I am the newest member of the Orangutan Care Team here at Zoo Atlanta. Great apes have always been my favorite animals, and I am very lucky to be able to work with them now. I just started here in April, and I am absolutely loving it here and getting to work with these intelligent animals.
As a new keeper, it can be a lot to learn at a new facility and a whole new routine, but it can also be rewarding. It is made easier when you work alongside really great coworkers. Getting trained in the orangutan area means learning how to clean and maintain not only the habitats guests see every day, but also where the animals sleep at night! You also learn the different diets for animals as groups and individuals. Each of the orangutans gets their own diet of nutrient-filled biscuits that they receive throughout the day. In addition to the biscuits, they also all get a greens diet, a vegetable diet, and a fruit diet! We like to provide a variety so they do not get the same things every day. For fruit diets, the orangutans get a mix of two to three fruits that often include oranges, grapefruit, banana, tomatoes, grapes, cantaloupe, and honeydew. The veggies they might get include broccoli, turnip, onion, squash, zucchini, cucumber, onion, celery, carrots, sweet potato, or bell peppers. Each day they usually get three to four different types of vegetables. We like to add increased novelty for the orangutans by also changing the ways in which we chop and cut up the veggies so that even if they get the same veggie two days in a row, it is not presented in the same way two days in a row. Just as people have preferences for food, so do all animals. Benny seems to prefer spiralized zucchini and enjoys playing with his food before consuming it. There are individuals such as our juvenile female Keju and our supermom Madu who are happy eat anything they are offered and often ask for more food. While we have others, like some of our males Remy, Benny, and Satu and our older female Biji, who are much pickier and have a smaller list of preferred foods.
Over these past few weeks I have been getting to know each individual and the different group dynamics. Just as new care team members have to learn the diets for each animal, we also have to get to know each animal as an individual. Just as you and I take time to get to know people and make new friends, it is the same with orangutans. They want to get to know you better and build trust with you, and this allows us to be able to take better care of them. Some, like Pelari, enjoy interacting with everyone who enters the orangutan building, while others, like Madu, want to observe you for a while first before interacting. As this bond continues to form over time, they begin to show more of their personalities and start looking for more ways to interact and connect with you. It is cool to see their personalities truly shine as you get to know them better.
It has been such a great adventure, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn more and continue getting to know the amazing orangutans.
Keeper I, Primates