Tuesday, October 18
Today we are celebrating a birthday! Sumatran orangutan Biji is 46 years old and is currently the oldest member of our orangutan population. Biji was born at Yerkes and came to Zoo Atlanta in 1999. Throughout Biji’s history here at Zoo Atlanta she has lived with several different individuals, the latest being Alan who passed away in 2014. She currently lives by herself, and for us keepers who know Biji well, we think she prefers to live this way. Orangutans out in the wild are generally solitary individuals. Sometimes females will make small groups with other females and offspring, but generally females and males are off on their own. So Biji preferring to be by herself makes her fit well with her wild counterparts!
Since Biji is singly housed, that gives keepers much more options for enrichment to give her. Enrichment can be an item to stimulate a natural behavior, whether that be manipulable, visual, auditory or tactile. Orangutans in the wild will make nests high up in the trees to sleep in using branches and broad leaves. Here at the Zoo we try to encourage nest-building with orangutans by providing a variety of items for them to nest-build with. Some of those items may include cardboard boxes, shredded paper, hay, wood wool or sheets. Each orangutan’s nest is completely different; for Biji, she prefers a lot of hay and sheets. One of Biji’s favorite items to receive are sheets. She enjoys wearing them over her head or wrapping herself in them, and one extraordinary thing she does with them is she rips them into strips and then weaves them through the mesh in her indoor area. This is one thing we keepers enjoy watching Biji do! Not only is it enriching for Biji, but it’s twice as enriching for the keepers who then take it down for cleaning. Another item she loves to receive is big tubs of water filled with bubble bath. She mimics her keepers by taking a towel and getting it wet and scrubbing the floor or walls. She will do this for hours!
Biji is by far one of my favorite orangutans I have worked with! She is a superstar at training and is just a fun animal to interact with, even though she takes some time to warm up to. I know for sure Biji is having a fabulous 46th birthday today! It just gives us another reason to spoil her even more!
Keeper III, Primates