Caring for Orangutans
The Perth Zoo family includes a lot of red heads…10 Sumatran Orangutans to be precise. They’re all individuals, with fascinating personalities, from cheeky 5-year-olds to a wise and stubborn 61-year-old.
Their gentle nature, individual traits, and the fierce protection the mothers have for their young, make them such an incredible animal to care for.
The matriarch is Puan, who at over 61-years-old holds the Guinness World Record for being the oldest Sumatran Orangutan in a zoo, anywhere in the world!
Fellow females are 47-year-old Puteri, 38-year-old Utama, 27 year-old Sekara, 24 year-old Pulang, 8 year-old Teliti and 5-year-old Lestari.
The impressive dread-locked males are 42-year-old Hsing Hsing, 30-year-old Dinar and rambunctious youngster 5-year-old Sungai.
They all require different levels of care and the dedicated keeping staff have a detailed knowledge of each individual including their likes, their dislikes, their temperaments and importantly their health needs.
Our colony receive supplements for their hair and skin due to the Perth climate being very different to Sumatra, where humidity can be 90%.
At 61 years of age Puan also receives a joint supplement to alleviate any stiffness she may experience especially in the cooler months. She also enjoys a warming herbal tea in winter.
Hsing Hsing was born at Singapore Zoo in 1975 and came to Perth Zoo in 1983. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997 after routine health checks and subsequent urine analysis and blood tests. Being exceptionally intelligent animals, Hsing was able to be trained by dedicated keeping staff to the point that he now receives twice daily insulin injections and have his blood glucose assessed every few days by needle pricking his finger.
This was a slow process but achieved by his keepers working closely with him and building on their close relationship with the Great Ape and making it a really positive experience. Hsing Hsing is a large adult male and staff need his cooperation so building trust was imperative. By being able to have Hsing Hsing voluntarily participate in regular glucose testing it means we can keep a very close watch on his daily health without causing any stress or having to take him to the veterinary hospital.
Like humans, dental care is also very important for Great Apes as a preventive medicine regime.
Orangutans at Perth Zoo have their teeth brushed and flossed, through the mesh of their night quarters. Natural toothpaste is used, or none at all.
This is done to avoid major dental work such as a tooth extraction or gum disease.
It takes a long time, effort and mutual trust for keepers to build a rapport with the individual orangutans but these relationships are priceless and help ensure our orangutans receive world class care!
Primate Supervisor at Perth Zoo