GANTENG – AN ORANGUTAN-BOY LEARNS TO BE FREE
In the past year, the four-year-old orang-utan boy Ganteng learned a lot. Born in captivity and abandoned by his family, not only did he have to acquire basic skills like climbing and nest-building, but he also had to build up quite a lot of self-confidence and courage.
Ganteng is Ginting’s twin brother and the son of the previously blind Gober. The three of them were supposed to be released into the rainforest in January. When the cage was opened, mother and daughter quickly disappeared into the forest leaving behind the timid and insecure Ganteng. During the course of the year, the SOCP (Sumatra Orang-Utan Conservation Programme) team developed a specific training programme for Ganteng aimed at teaching him self-awareness and “social competence”.
Ganteng’s first impression of the rain forest was the sight of his family disappearing and leaving him behind. Despite being born in captivity, he remained relatively wild as he never came into contact with humans and learned mostly from his mother. He was supposed to continue learning from his mother out in the forest, such as living in the trees, climbing, building nests and collecting fruits – in short: how to be a wild orang-utan in the rainforest. Now, this opportunity remained denied to Ganteng.
In April Ganteng was put under the wings of the female orang-utan Meysin so that he would hopefully learn from her. Over time, Meysin became a “surrogate mother” for Ganteng. He learned a lot from her and at times even slept in her nest. As early as June, the SOCP team released Ganteng and Meysin into the rainforest for the first time and the orang-utan boy promptly followed his adoptive mother out of the cage. But like in January, he let the female orang-utan head off into the forest on her own while he was frightened and remained in the vicinity of the station.
The subsequent goal was to remove Ganteng’s fear of the rainforest. In order to do this, his caretakers motivated him to climb into the trees and look for food they had put there. By doing this, he climbed higher and higher and covered increasing distances, becoming obviously more self-confident and self-aware. Eventually he started exploring the area of the rainforest close to the station and playing with other orang-utans. However, Ganteng still continued to return to the familiar environment of the station to eat and to sleep there.
One evening, the team tried something new: What would happen if they did not let Ganteng get back into his cage? Ganteng surprised everyone: after initially sitting defiantly and visibly disgusted in front of the closed cage, he followed suit and as his friends built a nest, he built one as well, his first. A big training success!
The orang-utan boy still does not feel completely at home in the rainforest. This is preventing him from being released into the wild for good. But he is making great progress. We hope that he will migrate to his new home during the first weeks of the new year without the urge to come back to the station. One year later than his family, he would then be finally free.
Watch Ganteng while he is training.
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