Over spring break, I visited the Hogle Zoo, observing the three Bornean orangutans who live there. Mia (pronounced MY-ah) is an approximately 30-year-old ‘easygoing’ male who spent some time attempting to get comfortable in a large basket, holding a pink blanket and a large head of lettuce. The two younger orangutans- Acara, a 12-year-old female, and her little brother, 3-year-old Tuah- were observed mostly together, with Tuah clinging to his sister while she swung around on ropes or nestled beneath a blanket on the ground. However, we did observe Tuah alone for several minutes when he came up to the windows, climbing ropes, looking at zoo visitors, and swinging on his tire swing. The siblings were orphaned just after Tuah was born, when their mother, Eve, passed away. Acara now takes care of her little brother full-time. Tuah even posed for the Orangutan Gang’s new promo movie!
I observed a young orangutan use a tool for the second time in as many orangutan exhibits when Acara pulled a small toy out of the plants at the base of the climbing structure, broke a stick off a nearby bush, and proceeded to hook the food out of the toy. When she was finished with the food, she reached her finger into the toy and turned it around, attempting to pull out any last morsels of treats. This shows the orangutan’s incredible intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when these behaviors are displayed in a juvenile such as Acara or 9-year-old Elka from the LA zoo.