BOS Nyaru Menteng: Meet Rachel, a Model Forest School Student

Text by: Communication Team BOS Foundation

July 26, 2019 — On 23 December, 2017, a 2-year-old baby orangutan arrived at the BOS Foundation’s Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The small, frightened baby girl, whom we later named Rachel, was handed over in a wooden box by a local resident.

Rachel (right) upon arrival at Nyaru Menteng

Eighteen months of rehabilitation later, and Rachel was showing immense progress. She had become very active and increasingly independent. Previously, whilst she was still a resident of the Baby House, Rachel would get nervous and uncomfortable whenever a surrogate mother was not by her side. If one walked away for any reason, Rachel would immediately follow after her. Now, she pays little attention to the surrogate mothers and only approaches them when it’s time for milk.

Rachel at Forest School

Rachel, now four years old, is a member of Forest School Group 3 alongside Josh, Jacqui, Mema, and Uru. She has quickly advanced to this higher group after learning natural behaviours and skills in record time. She is growing ever more skilled at climbing tall trees, brachiating, and foraging for termites hidden within rotten wood.

Another skill that Rachel is currently learning in Forest School is nest building. She pays close attention every time our surrogate mothers teach her how to construct a nest. At first, she would only pile branches and leaves on the ground or in a swing. But slowly, she has begun to build her nests up in the trees, between their supportive branches.

“Even though her nests are still far from perfect, this shows that her ability has been developed. She is successfully following directions from our surrogate mothers, and over time she will be able to build her own nest,” said Sri Rahayu, coordinator of surrogate mothers at the Nyaru Menteng Forest School.

Friendship Between Rachel, Jacqui, and Josh

Rachel is not only skilled in natural behaviours, but has also become a very social individual. She has befriended Josh and Jacqui in Forest School, where the three often forage and play together in the trees.

One day, the trio was exploring the Forest School “classroom” when they suddenly stopped at a jelutong tree. Curious Rachel snapped off a small tree branch and started jabbing the trunk with it to peel off the bark. Jacqui and Josh, who, at that time, had only eaten young leaves from the tree, followed Rachel’s lead and joined in to peel the bark and eat the cambium hidden beneath.

“I feel very proud when I see the orangutans that we have saved practice and hone their skills. In a rehabilitation centre, orangutans learn through the guidance of our surrogate mothers, but they can also learn from each other. If one of them develops new skills, usually the others will be curious and copy them,” said Sri Rahayu.

The BOS Foundation’s Nyaru Menteng Rehabilitation Centre is currently caring for 366 orangutans of various ages. We will continue to help the young orangutans, like Rachel, through the long rehabilitation process, in the hope that we will one day see them return to their true home, the forest!

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