Rescued baby orangutans are being taught essential survival skills normally handed down from their parents at this special school.
At Four Paws Forest School, baby orangutans that become separated from their mothers either by poachers or the illegal wildlife trade get a second chance at life.
The school is part of a joint program between Four Paws, an international wildlife advocacy group, Jejak Pulang, an Indonesian orangutan rescue agency, and the Indonesian forest ministry. Launched in 2017, the school spans 590 acres right in the middle of the Borneo rainforest. The school is headed by Dr. Signe Preuschoft who leads a staff of 19 primatologists, veterinarians, and caretakers.
They've been taking care of eight orangutans at the moment and their ages range between 11 months to 9-years-old. All of the orangutans have been rescued by the Indonesian government under a variety of tragic circumstances. Some were orphaned when their mothers were killed by poachers, while others were left alone when their mothers were taken by illegal wildlife traders.
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All of them would surely have perished if they hadn’t found their way to Four Paws. Orangutans learn how to survive in the wild from their mothers. Without them, they don’t get taught the essential skills to feed and protect themselves. At Four Paws, those special skills are instead taught by human surrogates. Lessons include how to forage for food, climb trees, and build a nest to sleep in at night.
Depending on the age of the orangutan, they’ll be put into one of three different classes. From age 0-2, the baby orangutans get put into the kindergarten class. At this age, baby orangutans mostly cling to their mothers and get fed milk. From age 2 to puberty, the orangutans are placed in forest school classes, where they spend their time learning how to climb and what fruits are good to eat.
From puberty to adulthood, usually around age nine or 10, they then attend “orangutan academy’” to learn advanced lessons and become accustomed to the environment they’ll eventually be released into. The hope is for students to live fully independent lives after graduation, but only the little ones that are truly ready to live on their own will leave the academy.
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