Orangutans in Tropic World reach for peanut butter on the wall (left); Kekasih Orangutan enjoys a block of flavored ice (right).
Have you ever wondered why there are blocks of colored flavored ice hanging on vines in the orangutan exhibit in Tropic World? Have you noticed that at times there is peanut butter smeared high up on the walls of the exhibit? There is a purpose behind these things and we call it enrichment. Enrichment is defined as the dynamic process for enhancing an animal’s environment within the context of the animal’s behavioral biology and natural history. In other words, in order to enhance an animal’s welfare, we provide stimulating activities for the animals we care for.
In the wild orangutans spend a majority of their day “working for a living”. They have to spend a large amounts of time looking for and processing food which can be scarce at times. Here, food is readily available for them and there are no predators to avoid. To challenge our orangutans and keep them problem solving and engaged in their environment, we challenge them to find, uncover, reach up to, and obtain treats that they love to eat! Enrichment is a very important aspect of daily care for all the animals at Brookfield Zoo, no matter the animal’s age or species.
Kecil and Maggie look for hidden treats under a pile of wood chips; Climbing is another form of enrichment for Kecil.
Although Kecil is only 1 year old, he enjoys engaging with a variety of enrichment items. Whether it is exploring a new enclosure, sharing delicious ice treats with Maggie, or watching the other group of orangutans, enrichment is a big part of Kecil’s life. Some of his favorites include puzzle feeders with applesauce, wood chips with hidden treats, cardboard boxes, and shredded paper. Enrichment has also helped facilitate Kecil’s locomotive development by encouraging him to climb around his enclosures. We are able to move around vines and structural items to allow him to advance his climbing abilities. We also are giving him access to enclosures he normally does not have access to so he is able to comfortably explore new places. Enrichment is a very important part of Kecil’s life and a big part of our jobs as zookeepers. Check out these fun photos of the orangutans and Kecil engaged in enrichment and be on the lookout for enrichment next time you visit Brookfield Zoo!
- The Tropic World Asia Keepers
KLOG entry: January 20, 2015
Gave shredded paper to Kecil for the first time. He was very eager to explore this and dove face first into large pile of shredded paper. He was later seen flailing his arms and throwing shredded paper as Maggie sat nearby.
KLOG entry: January 28, 2015
Maggie and Kecil were given puzzle feeders with jelly today. Maggie was quick to use a stick to fish jelly out of the puzzle feeders. Kecil stuck his hand out of the enclosure and used his fingers to get the jelly. Both were engaging in this enrichment for 30+ minutes.
January 11, 2015 marked Kecil’s first birthday. We celebrated all weekend so that all of us here at Tropic World Asia could attend the party. We decorated Maggie and Kecil’s enclosure with streamers and we made two healthy cakes. One was made of sugar-free Jell-O topped with yogurt and raisins. The other was made out of primate biscuits and topped with yogurt. Kecil loved playing with the streamers and Maggie loved eating the cakes. Kecil did manage to get a taste of both cakes, too!
So much has happened in Kecil’s first year of life! When he arrived at Brookfield Zoo last June, he seemed so tiny. He could move about by himself, but was unsteady and slow due to his young age. He enjoyed climbing up, but could not climb back down. Today he can go up, down, sideways, and his new favorite – upside down! Another new favorite activity is wrestling! He wrestles with Maggie, wrestles with paper, with toys, and with wood wool (bedding used to sleep on). This new favorite activity, along with his love of climbing, will help strengthen his muscles as he grows. He has already grown taller since coming here, and has gained about five pounds. We have been offering him small adult diet items for a few months and Kecil is eating many of them now rather than just sucking on them and spitting them out. He will continue to get a bottle for some time as infant orangutans nurse from their mother for four or more years. After that, most of the nursing is for reassurance as majority of their calories come from eating solid foods.
Kecil has also learned many things since coming to Brookfield Zoo. He can move from one enclosure to another on his own when asked, and sometimes he’s even faster than Maggie. He is also learning his way around all the other enclosures and he is figuring out how to negotiate new obstacles. He shows interest in watching the other orangutans in the area, especially six-year-old Kekasih.
All in all, Kecil has had a very busy year but is right on track with any other one-year-old orangutan. He is fully bonded with Maggie and continues to sleep with her every night and play with her during the day. He is healthy, strong, inquisitive, and just likes to have fun!
- Tropic World Asia Keepers
When he was born, Kecil weighed only three pounds. Now, he is over 13 pounds! How do we know this? Simple – we weigh him. Well, it wasn’t always that simple. During the first several months of his life when keepers were caring for Kecil, he was weighed daily to make sure he was gaining weight at an appropriate rate. Now that he has bonded with Maggie, it is a little more challenging. Maggie will not leave him, so keepers cannot simply pick him up and place him on a scale. We have a large orangutan-sized scale that we use to weigh all of our adult orangutans every month. However, Kecil is too little to climb onto this. A special weighing method had to be developed just for him.
Have you ever used one of those hanging scales in the produce section at the grocery store? Did you know that Kecil loves climbing on and hanging from vines? We thought we could hang a vine from this type of scale to weigh him. We learned we needed one more thing. Scientists know the orangutans almost always hold one to at least two branches/vines at the same time. As adults, this helps ensure that the branch won’t break with their weight. Even as an infant, Kecil exhibits this same behavior. He would not climb on one vine from the hanging scale. When we hang two vines from the scale, he climbs right up! And this is how we weigh him at least every other week.
- Tropic World Asia Keepers
KLOG Entry - December 15, 2014
We set up the new hanging scale in order to weigh Kecil. Unfortunately we neglected to move two nearby fire hose vines out of the way. Kecil ran right over to play with the hanging toys on the hanging scale and climbed up but wouldn't let go of the nearby vines. Since his weight was not fully on the scale vines, we could not get an accurate weight. We called to Kecil to try to get him to move away from the fun new toy but he was too involved with playing with it. Then we asked Maggie to get him and move him over and she did! She had to pry him off the toy first but she was eventually successful. Once the extra vines were moved out of his reach, Kecil was easily weighed on the hanging scale.
KLOG Entry – December 20, 2014
Did not nap in the afternoon three days last week. Unusual.
When Kecil arrived on June 20, 2014, he was such an adorable baby. It was impossible not to fall in love with him. Now that he had stolen our hearts, it was time for him to steal Maggie’s. Because this baby was new to Maggie and we did not know how she would react to him, Maggie was shown Kecil or “visually introduced” to Kecil while he was being held outside of the enclosure. Maggie showed immediate interest in Kecil and began sticking out her fingers to try to touch him.
Since the visual introduction was a success, it was now time for Kecil to become familiar with his new home. Kecil was placed in his enclosure while we sat nearby for comfort. He quickly began exploring his new surroundings. When he seemed calm and comfortable on his own, it was time for him and Maggie to meet face to face.
Maggie quickly went up to Kecil and began inspecting him, touching him gently, and sniffing him. Both of them were remarkably calm during their first few moments together. As time went on, we saw positive signs that their bond would grow. When it was time to give Kecil his bottle shortly after the introduction, Maggie sat next to Kecil drinking juice from a cup while Kecil drank his bottle. We took overnight shifts to observe them continually that first night and we saw many gentle interactions between them. Maggie inspected his feet as he slept and she pulled him close to her once when he whimpered, both very positive signs.
As the days passed, Maggie and Kecil’s bond continued to grow. Maggie would often check on Kecil when he slept, come to Kecil’s aid when he would cry, and play with him often. Maggie was even heard making new vocalizations towards Kecil. She began making low grunting vocalization and holding her arm out towards Kecil. He would quickly run up to her and grabbed onto her arm. We were thrilled to see this progress and enjoyed watching their bond grow every day. We see new light in Maggie since Kecil’s arrival and are excited for what the future holds.
What happened to Brunei you may ask? Brunei has been enjoying bachelor life since being separated from Maggie. He still gets lots of keeper attention and is as playful and attentive as ever.
Read Part 1 of How We Prepared for Kecil's Arrival.
- Tropic World Asia Keepers
KLOG Entry - November 18, 2014
Kecil seems much more interested in solid foods the past few days. Spoke to our nutritionist and she changed his pureed baby food to chunks of the same veggie and starch that Maggie gets. He ate the new diet well today.
KLOG Entry – December 2, 2014
Brunei spent time today watching Kecil play on the other side of their shared clear door. Kecil didn’t seem to pay any attention to Brunei in return.
Looking back, June 20th was an exciting day for the Asia team and everyone in Tropic World. Kecil, a 5-month-old Bornean Orangutan, was coming from the Milwaukee Zoo to make his home at Brookfield Zoo! But much work had to be done to get ready for his arrival in a short amount of time. The staff from our Nutrition Services department, along with our maintenance department and the primate keepers from both the Milwaukee Zoo and Brookfield Zoo all worked together to make sure everything was ready for Kecil’s arrival.
We corresponded with his primary keeper at the Milwaukee Zoo to learn more about Kecil. Could he move around well enough on his own to come up to keepers to drink his bottle? What formula was he on and what times were his feedings? We found out we would need our night keepers to feed Kecil his bottles during the night at 10 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., so we asked our night keepers to begin giving Maggie juice at these times to acclimate her to waking up and coming up to the night keeper during the night.
We also looked at the enclosures Kecil would be staying in and began to ‘baby proof’ them. We removed all heavy objects from these enclosures to ensure nothing could fall on him. We learned that Kecil was good at climbing up the mesh of the enclosure but had a trouble getting back down. A Plexiglas barrier was added on the inside of the enclosure to prevent him from climbing too high and many fire hose vines were added to aid him in his journeys. We also collected some soft fleece blankets for Kecil’s comfort as well as some baby toys for him to play with.
Now that Kecil’s home was all set, we geared our efforts toward making sure that Maggie was ready for his arrival. Maggie had been living with her companion Brunei, a 23-year-old male prior to Kecil’s arrival. To keep Kecil as safe as possible, the decision was made to separate Maggie from Brunei. Part of the regular husbandry of orangutans at the Brookfield zoo is separation training. Maggie and Brunei were experts at this type of training, so when they were separated it seemed normal.
Read here for Part 2 of How We Prepared for Kecil’s Arrival.
- Tropic World Asia Keepers