Thursday, November 18, 2010


Since I have been working nights I've found a new passion... Orangutans.

That may sound a little strange to some of you, but they are truly amazing animals. They have more human-like behavior than you could ever imagine. They have friends, they cuddle, they groom each other out of love, they pick on each other, they play, they fight, they help each other, they learn from each other and they watch out for each other. There are outcasts, shy guys, scaredy cats, bullies, adventurists, popular orangutans and flirts...just like in the human world. They are just amazing to watch.

How did I fall in love with them you ask? Orangutan Island on Animal Planet.

Since watching so many episodes and being so amazed by them I decided I wanted to do my small part in helping them. So, I adopted an orangutan! Two of them to be exact : )

I would like to introduce you to my adopted orangutans...

First is Kesi.

Here is her story:

Kesi is a Swahili name which means ‘child born in difficult times.’ You’re probably wondering why she was given an African name. After all, orangutans don’t live in Africa. They live in Southeast Asia. Times are extremely difficult for wild orangutans. They are being pushed to the brink of extinction due to the rush to convert rainforest into palm oil plantations. Their habitat is being destroyed while they’re still living in it—and with nowhere to go, orangutans will not be able to survive in the wild. So that is why this precious little girl was given the name Kesi.

Kesi’s story is particularly brutal. She was brought to Nyaru Menteng back in September of 2004 when one of the paramedics found her during a rescue at a palm oil plantation in central Kalimantan. She was barely three months old, with her first teeth just barely coming through. When the paramedic took a closer look, he was shocked by what he saw: Her left hand was missing.

It wasn’t difficult to imagine what had happened. Starving and desperate to take care of her infant, Kesi’s mother had wandered onto the plantation in search of something to eat. In her weakened state, she was an easy target for poachers or plantation workers, and because she had a baby that could easily be sold for a few extra dollars on the black market, there was no hesitation. She was quickly brought down— and then they went in for the kill, finishing the job with a machete or knife. In the mad rush to kill the mother and capture the baby, one thing got in the way: Kesi’s little hand. An infant orangutan never lets go of his or her mother. Ever. Nor will a mother ever let her infant out of her immediate reach. With a vise-like grip, the only way to pry her loose might have been to cut her off. This, more or less, is the tragically brutal fate of many orangutans caught on palm oil plantations.

After Kesi was brought to the center, the medics discovered that her foot was also wounded— obviously cut by a knife or machete. What was truly incredible, though, was that despite all the pain she had clearly suffered, this little angel still smiled peacefully as she lay in her basket in the nursery. She was one of the tiniest and most delicate babies the staff had ever seen, and she quickly became a favorite.

With time, Kesi began to grow and gain weight. The wound in her left foot eventually healed and so did her spirit. She grew eager for adventure and started using two of the toes on her injured foot to hold onto smaller branches– even though she sometimes didn’t know how to get back down again. Whenever this happened she would cry out loudly for her caretakers to come and help her.

Through everything, she perseveres. She is always trying to reach higher branches, and while she is emotionally sensitive about her stump (not liking people to touch it) she uses it more and more—especially to feed. She’s especially fond of rambutans, and she’s reluctant to share, quickly scampering away if anybody tries to take some!

Staff members at Nyaru Menteng still can’t believe how much progress Kesi has made in her life. She no longer wants to be carried by caretakers to the forest. She successfully graduated from Infant to Baby School, and with so many new friends around her— who are a bit more experienced than her—she learns quickly. She now contrucs her own nests and has started to climb trees more and more. So even though Kesi was ‘born in difficult times,’ she’s a real fighter, and everyone believes that she’ll develop into a perfect wild orangutan.

Next is Pingky...

Here is Pingky's story:

Pingky is a 13-year-old female orangutan who was rescued by the O-Team from a garden behind a house hidden in a maze of small alleys in the remote city of Sintang, in the interior of West Kalimantan. When we found her she was tied to a tree with a rusty chain. Her neck had actually grown into the chain, making moving, eating, even drinking an ordeal for her. The wound on her neck was permanent and festering... You can read the details about Pingky’s rescue in the Sintang Report on

Just as one can read so much of the character of an old person in their wrinkles, showing years of accumulated smiles or sadness, Pingky’s face spoke of pure depression, deep sadness, and complete despair. Indeed at that moment Pingky was the saddest orangutan in the world.

Pingky’s face was extremely dark, giving her the visage of an orangutan in her 30s, and also
very leathery, from having no place to hide from the blazing sun. Being limited by a 5-foot
chain, she was constantly sunburned, something that can also happen to orangutans. Pingky was not particulary skinny-- she did get cans of Sprite and rice to eat, providing her with plenty of calories, but she had no real strength in her because of poor nutrition and inadequate vitamins for so many years. When we found her she literally begged us for some water. There was no source of water near her. One hardly dares to ponder about how often she must have been sitting there on her hill dying of thirst in the blistering sun for God knows how long…. Pingky weighed about 25 kilograms when we freed her. She had recently started menstruating,
something that in zoos with appropriate food may start as early as 8 years of age. She had also begun to have serious mood swings that scared her owner.

Pingky has long dark hair, which makes her look somewhat healthy. But actually the opposite
is true! Active playful orangutans normally roll around so much that their hair breaks off. For captive orangutans, long hair shows lethargy. Once the orangutans go back up into the trees their hair gets naturally long and oily to protect their skin from the raindrops that just roll off from their coat.

The rusty chain and the stinking festering wounds around Pingky’s neck severely restricted
her breathing. With big iron shears we cut her free, and after arriving at the Sintang Orangutan Rescue Center we immediately started removing the dead tissue from where the chain had been. After a clean up, Pingky woke up and was extremely uncertain about what to do. But when we would pass by her new enclosure she would show interest and, for those who want to believe it, gratitude to her rescuers...

Pingky's second picture is from when they first found her...the first is from this fall. Doesn't she look wonderful now?!?!

If you would like more information about orangutans and what you can do to help them, please check out

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