Taste-Testing Orangutan Food!

Leony munching on some delicious rattan.

Text by: BOS Foundation Communications Team in Bogor HQ, West Java
Date Posted: Feb 23, 2022

Observing orangutans and witnessing how eagerly they tuck into the natural food sources available in the forest often makes our Post-Release Monitoring (PRM) team members wonder – what do these foods taste like? Interested in knowing first-hand how they taste, our PRM team members from Camp Nles Mamse in the Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan, have sampled many of the forest offerings. Let’s read about what they discovered!

In August of last year, our PRM team from Camp Nles Mamse had a few unsuccessful patrols, where they were unable to locate orangutans. While hiking through the forest in search of signs of orangutans, such as nests or leftover fruit scraps, the team noticed some trees were laden with orangutan food items.

One day, the team was interested in tasting some of the fruits and leaves identified as orangutan foods. First, the team tried mahang leaves (macaranga); then citrus fruits growing behind the camp; senggani or senduduk fruit (melastoma); and rattan shoots. Overall, these foods did very little to please the human palate, although they were tolerable and likely very good for our health. If humans intended to make these food sources a snack, they would need further processing and probably should not be eaten raw.

Melastoma fruits

Macaranga fruits

From research, we know that an orangutan diet incorporates many plant and plant parts that have medicinal properties. For example, the mahang leaves that grow throughout the year are a good remedy for an aching stomach; while some rattan fruits have been shown to have antibacterial properties and could be used for treating infections from wounds. Meanwhile, senggani fruit is used in traditional medicine for treating a variety of ailments. Understanding the medicinal properties of forest food sources is certainly beneficial for mankind, especially in times of emergency.

We are constantly amazed by the life of orangutans and all the amazing resources the forest offers us. Our PRM team members are ready to taste-test more forest foods – and we will let you know what they report back! Bon appétit!

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