Tabin Surprise August 2013

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It’s fair to say that like any reintroduction project we’ve had our ups and downs since beginning with our releases in 2010.  But without question the best thing to have happened in the almost four years that I’ve been living in the jungle is.....drum roll please......our first Tabin baby!  Otan, a 10 year old female that I brought to join us last October, gave birth to a male in May this year!

So without further ado, let me proudly introduce you to little Spike!  We think that Otan became pregnant just before we brought her to Tabin last year so we’re not sure if the father was another rehabilitant or a wild male.  As I’m sure you’ll agree he’s a little ripper and will hopefully one day become a local boss here in Tabin.  Right now however, he’s still very much the Mummy’s boy. Sometimes when Otan is giving him a close up inspection to remove bugs and debris from her boy, he’ll cling onto her bottom lip and start sucking!  Speaking of which he’s so far taking milk very well and Otan has been a very attentive mother.  Whenever Spike is out of position to feed, he’ll let out a few squeaks so that Otan knows to bring him up to chest level for more milk.  He’s still too young for solid foods but it shouldn’t be too long before Otan starts sharing chewed up fruits and leaves with the spiky one! 

Otan certainly likes her food, and ever since we brought her to Tabin she’s arguably been what we thought was a little overweight.  It wasn’t until a few months ago that we really began to suspect she may have been harbouring a little Sepilok fugitive inside her rather large belly!  So when we restarted tracking Otan one day in May (after a few days break to focus on some of our other orangutans) we were a little surprised to see a baby so soon!

Ever since we first released Otan in October 2012 she’s been our star performer. Her foraging is excellent and she seems to be constantly hungry, which I think is a very important character trait for a reintroduced orangutan to have.  She has settled into a very stable and pretty small home range so she’s not using a whole lot of energy, and she doesn’t seek out human contact as much as some of the others do – both of these things have freed up her time for searching for more food and for resting both during and after her pregnancy.

I believe that her brilliant post release progress is down to the fact that she had around five years with her own mum in the forest before they were separated.  As much as humans try to provide a good learning environment for orphaned orangutans, there is no substitute for learning from a wild mother in undisturbed habitat.  It totally makes sense that the older an orangutan is before it ends up at a rehabilitation centre then the better chance it will have of doing well if it is later released back into a wild environment.  Otan’s competent mothering skills so far are testament to the time she had with her mum.
Spike is still very young and he has many, many years of tough jungle living to overcome.  But hopefully with Otan looking out for him, he will eventually grow into a huge 80+ kilo dominant male that will help to ensure the continued existence of this most gentle and beautiful ape long beyond our lifetimes.