Reflecting rainbows and glistening in the sun, a ‘flock’ of floating bubbles recently provided some special enrichment for Perth Zoo’s eight Sumatran Orangutans.

To help us create extra big bubbles we had a visit from the Founder of Bubbly, Andrew Suttar aka ‘Dr Froth’, one of Australia’s top Bubbleologist, and Co-Founder, Tovie Bentley aka ‘Queen Bubbly’. 
Andrew and Tovie generously volunteered their time to help spread bubbles and joy to our curious primates.
When the orangutans first saw the mass of soapy balls drifting towards them some were a little cautious of the unfamiliar site, others curious, and one was especially delighted. 
Perth Zoo’s Primate Supervisor, Holly Thompson, was not surprised by the varying responses.
“We are always amazed with their reactions to novel enrichments and changes in their environment, but Sumatran orangutans are extremely intelligent, with completely different personalities, just like humans,” she said.
“Proving that bubbles are not just fun for kids, 28-year-old Sekara expressed interest while her 7-year-old son Sungai appeared a little frightened. 25-year-old Pulang joined her daughter Lestari, also 7-years-old, to watch intently and even attempt to catch a few.”
Puteri, a 48-year-old female, was the most engaged of the orangutans, sitting closer to the bubbles, while her 9-year-old daughter moved away to hide behind some bushes.
With one long arm reaching out, Puteri, attempted to catch the shimmering bubbles in her hand. Unable to hold on to them she opened her mouth wide to try and grab a few soapy bites (animal friendly and palm oil free) as they popped in front of her face.

Sumatran Orangutan sitting on grass with bubbles in front of her face.

This was not the first time that the orangutans had experienced bubbles, but the Bubbly creations were the biggest they have seen.
“Perth Zoo’s animals receive all forms of novel enrichment as part of a regular program to keep them mentally and physically healthy,” Holly said.
Not only do bubbles provide a great source of enrichment but they don’t stick around when the fun is over. Unlike balloons which can be a moment of joy for a lifetime of environmental pain.
While bubbles dissipate within seconds, balloons released outside often end up in our oceans and when they break into smaller pieces they get mistaken for food by unsuspecting marine life.
Our vets here at the Zoo have treated several wild sea turtles and birds that have been impacted by ingesting rubbish. Sadly, despite the very best care, not all survive.
So next time you are planning a party or looking for a playful activity, follow the lead of our orangutans and have fun with bubbles instead of balloons!
Melissa Leo - Media and Communications Officer at Perth Zoo