05 January 2016

On 28 June 2016 our Sumatran orangutan Subis took her two young offspring Tuti and Siska – along with fellow adult Indah – into a keeper area for a bit of an adventure.

They briefly made their way out of their usual habitat through a tiny fault in one side of their enclosure and were spotted in the roof space above by one of our team during early morning checks.

Subis and her youngsters, alongside Indah, used this opportunity to explore the keeper area by trying on gloves, a face mask and a high-vis jacket which keepers often use when cleaning. Orangutans are incredibly intelligent and inquisitive animals, so it’s no surprise that they knew how to do this, even if their hands were a bit too big for the gloves!

Our keepers have very close bonds with the animals they work with on a daily basis. We quickly realised that Subis and co had been trying to get back into their usual habitat but were unable to do so. The team carefully managed to open up a larger gap in the exhibit for the orangutans to move back through in their own time. Once this was done, the orangutans safely made their own way back into the habitat.

Subis and Siska

Keepers then ushered the four orangutans into their outdoor space to re-join the rest of the group, while they safely fixed the fault in the enclosure. Our primate keepers, alongside external contractors, have since thoroughly checked the rest of the exhibit and added additional safety measures.

No visitors were in the vicinity at any point.

It is worth stressing that, right now, Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered. The skill and expert knowledge our team have developed here in the zoo is being used in the fight to save them from extinction in the wild.

Our Act For Wildlife campaign is delivering around 80 conservation projects in 30 different countries around the world. One of the main regions of its focus is South East Asia where orangutans live in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo.

Among the biggest threats to orangutans there is deforestation – they’re being pushed to the very edge of existence as their rainforest homes are cleared for agriculture, such as unsustainable palm oil plantations.

We’re working alongside our partners HUTAN on a number of different projects, in the highly important Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in the Malaysian state of Sabah to protect the largest orangutan population in the state.

You can act for orangutans too and together, we can make a difference.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals