Nov 13, 2008
When Lone Dröscher Nielsen first saw Peanut, the little orangutan was so small that Lone - the founder and manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary - had no hesitation in choosing a name for her. “As you can see, she's no bigger than a Peanut,” Lone told the BBC TV crew when they were filming the second series of the popular television show, Orangutan Diary. “I picked her up in a palm oil plantation where they say that they found her with blood all over her, but the mother was not there. I'm sure the mother is dead. And they called us on a late afternoon, panicky, because they thought Peanut might have some injuries.”
Pickle was found in similar circumstances, with Lone again responding to an urgent call from a group of plantation workers. He was also alone, with no sign of his mother, so it's likely that she, too, was killed. How these two mothers died will never be known, but hunters who are hired to control pests in the palm oil plantations are known to have been responsible for the deaths of orangutans - either accidentally in snares or sometimes on purpose. Orangutans can be a target for these hunters as well, since they can damage the palms while searching for food.
Neither of these babies had any teeth when Lone rescued them, so it's thought that they were less than three months old at the time. Therefore, despite their tragic start in life, they are too young to remember the loss of their mothers. At Nyaru Menteng they are being given the opportunity to grow up in a small group, and slowly gain confidence within their secure surroundings, where they're getting the love and attention that their own mothers would have given them - and this will continue for the next five or six years of their lives.
At this early age, their needs are simple. They cling to their babysitters, as they would have done to their mothers, but there's a selection of playthings nearby for when they feel like exploring. Peanut is very happy to do so, but Pickle, being a boy, is more needy and prefers to stay close to his babysitter. The male babies seem to be less advanced than the girls, who grow up a little bit faster.
“But the most important thing here,” says Lone “is love and attention, lots of cuddles, and making them laugh. We sort of have a little rule of thumb here that you have to make them laugh at least half an hour a day.”
Without their mothers, the orangutan babies are very dependent on the family life and security which Nyaru Menteng provides, which will give them the confidence to grow into happy, healthy young orangutans who will one day be released back into the wild.