HomeGetting an Orangutan to Leave Her Hammock – Big Day of Giving
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Getting an Orangutan to Leave Her Hammock – Big Day of Giving

Categories: BIG Day of Giving

Primate keeper Andrea Haverland has to know the specific dietary, environmental and emotional needs of the eight species in her care, as well as the specific needs of all thirty-one individuals in her care. As one of the main providers of care to the primates at the zoo, Andrea is required to know and recognize typical behaviors, as well as those that may be abnormal.

When Andrea started working at the zoo in November, Indah the Sumatran orangutan had just arrived from Houston Zoo in late October. Not only was Andrea navigating the ins and outs of her new position, she was also helping to introduce a brand-new orangutan to an already well-established pair.

During most animal introductions, there is a quarantine period in which veterinary and keeper staff monitor the animal alone in an off-exhibit holding area. This period allows the animal to become acquainted with its new caretakers and gives the veterinary staff the opportunity to monitor the animal for any signs of distress, or potential health concerns. This is also a time for zookeepers to get to know the individual preferences of an animal, as well as signs of stress or abnormal behaviors. This process is pivotal to the introduction process, so that when animals are introduced, keepers are able to make a potentially stressful encounter as seamless as possible.

Indah the Orangutan
Indah in her favorite hammock waiting for keeper Andrea to bring her breakfast.

It is during this quarantine period that Andrea and Indah developed a special bond. Andrea quickly learned that Indah favors grapes and green beans to all other snacks, and she loves to wrap herself in organza and sit herself in her hammock. When it came time for introductions, Indah met the resident female orangutan, Cheli, first. When it was time for Indah to meet the male, Makan, all went well and the three were allowed to enjoy their outdoor exhibit space together.

On the day of their first outdoor exhibit adventure, Cheli and Makan quickly left the indoor space to meander for snacks and sit in their favorite spots on exhibit. Indah, however, was too shy to go out. She sat in between the door of the indoor and outdoor exhibit space, known as the chute, and watched from afar. For months, Indah would watch from the chute. Sometimes, she would stay in entirely, shredding the phone books her keepers had given her and stuffing the shreds into an empty pillowcase. She’d then take her newly stuffed pillow to her hammock to take a nap.

While Andrea and the other primate keepers loved watching Indah behind the scenes, it was a wonderful day in early January when she finally went outside to enjoy the sunshine. Because of the hard work of Indah’s keepers, Indah was able to finally go all the way outside, despite her initial hesitation. You will now most likely see tufts of orange fur coming out of the uppermost hammock in the orangutan exhibit: that’s Indah, watching people pass down below and napping in the sunshine.

Your gift to the Sacramento Zoo on the Big Day of Giving enables Andrea and the other zookeepers to continue to provide excellent care to the 579 individuals who call the zoo home. This year, thanks to a gift from a generous donor, the zoo has received a $25,000 matching gift specifically for the Big Day of Giving! Additionally, every dollar you donate will help the zoo receive a boost from a pool of incentive funds provided by other local partners. The more contributions to the zoo, the more incentive dollars we receive. This is a great opportunity to make your dollar stretch!

Support the zoo on Thursday, May 3rd, or you can schedule your donation now.

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Visit our Big Day of Giving webpage for more information and ways you can help the zoo continue in its mission to inspire an appreciation and respect for all animals.

Sumatran Orangutan

Snow leopard cub Coconut 

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