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Report from Orangutan SSP Husbandry Workshop

Hey reader, I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Husbandry Workshop. And let me start off by saying I had a wonderful time. The workshop was hosted by the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans. Zookeepers, veterinarians, researchers and other orangutan fans from all over the world gathered in The Big Easy for three days of incredibly informative presentations.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Cheryl Knott. Knott has spent the better part of 25 years in the Gunung Palung National Park researching wild orangutans along with her family and a team of Indonesian researchers. Her study has focused on orangutan birth intervals in an effort to explain why orangutans wait longer between births than any other mammal on the planet. Her research uncovered incredibly interesting data showing a correlation between orangutan estrone levels and high fruiting periods observed in the forest. She also showed us some exciting footage from her new documentary, Person of the Forest.

We also had the chance to watch an exciting presentation from Jamartin Sihite of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. The BOSF has worked for over 20 years in many of Borneo’s rainforest to rescue, rehabilitate, and release orangutans back into the wild. This includes taking in orphaned baby orangutans to a “forest school” where they can be taught the skills they need to live in the wild. He shared with us video of some of their recent releases.

Our days were packed with presentations and a seemingly endless assortment of orangutan topics. We had the chance to learn about the latest techniques in studying orangutan heart disease, stories of orangutans being transported across the country to start new families, a panel of training orangutans to become foster mothers (and even foster fathers), a comprehensive breakdown of the history of orangutan husbandry, a study of orangutan nesting trends … do you get the idea at this point? There were a lot of topics covered. My hand is still cramped from my frantic note taking that week.

Reader, I had an absolute blast meeting all of these orangutan experts from around the world and getting a chance to hear their stories. I hope I have the opportunity to see them all again and hear about what they’re working on next.
Mike Marazzi
Keeper I, Primates

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl