Sometimes the most important lessons we learn in life are the ones we end up learning the hard way. An apt statement to describe the wild jungle lessons our orangutan Nyaru is learning.

Since being released into the wilds of Sumatra, Nyaru was settling in well to his forest surrounds but recently had a rumble in the jungle with an adult male, Win Gayo, who was defending his territory.

Unfortunately, Nyaru’s first big altercation was over a female and with a much bigger and stronger male! Although the fully flanged Win Gayo was initially tolerant of Perth Zoo born Nyaru, the big male redirected his frustration at the Perth adolescent when he couldn’t pursue a female he had his eye on.

Nyaru happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and received the brunt of Win Gayo’s wrath.

These kind of fights do take place and are all part of wild life but sadly Nyaru came off second best. However, given Win Gayo’s 80 kilogram frame and substantial power, it was clear the adult male could have inflicted much more serious injuries but decided to give young Nyaru a warning, albeit the hard way.

Because we have people monitoring Nyaru from dawn to dusk, the staff could immediately tell that Nyaru had sustained typical orangutan wounds caused from biting, particularly to his hands and feet, so they carefully monitored his climbing abilities and movement through the jungle. It became obvious to his trackers that Nyaru had learnt his lesson and now knew the pecking order, moving away from Win Gayo and any sound of a male long calling to identify their territory.

It also became obvious that Nyaru needed some time out, a bit of R & R and time away from the jungle to have his wounds treated and recuperate.

Having a break from forest life isn’t uncommon for orangutans who are released and isn’t unique to Nyaru. Many of the orphans or illegally trafficked orangutans which we help rehabilitate and release to the same area in Sumatra can return multiple times for respite. It’s all part of the learning process and transition to wild life.

Perth Zoo’s Primate Supervisor and veterinary staff have since visited Nyaru and tended to his wounds along with the vets in Sumatra. He’s now rebuilding strength at the Open Orangutan Sanctuary and socialising with some of the orangutans there. After some respite the goal is to return Nyaru to the jungle, the protected area of the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem where he’ll continue his journey to wild life.