Today on International Orangutan Day (19 August) we’re celebrating the Zoo’s Bornean orangutans - Charlie and Melur and their precious son Bahmi, and the amazing mahi of our conservation partners in Sumatra, and hope you’ll join us!

At five months old and around 4kg, Bahmi is now becoming a lot more active and increasing in strength as he starts to develop his climbing skills, under the watchful eye of his mum.

Primate keeper Sarah says Bahmi is extremely interested in his surroundings, “a real wriggler” and attempting to move everywhere. “He’s climbing up on Melur’s arm and onto her head, which means she’s constantly having to reposition herself! Melur is very patient, and it’s amazing to see.”

Bahmi is now also showing a keen interest in what Melur is eating and started to sample little bits of mashed pumpkin and greens like lettuce and kale, but his mother’s milk is his main sustenance.  Incredibly, orangutans nurse their young longer than any other primate – up to eight years, during which time they learn all they need to know, including how to gather and process an extraordinary number of different foods.

One of their favoured foods is the fruit of the durian tree – a fruit crop that is key to the livelihoods of many local villagers living along the forest edge in close proximity to orangutan habitat.

Helping to mitigate human-orangutan conflict during the durian season (June to August) is one of the many roles of the dedicated rangers from the Sumatran Ranger Project (SRP) – a project the Zoo supports with the help of you, our visitors.

“The rangers spend a lot of time helping the community to protect the trees, using a range of different methods - from putting collars around the trees to using different noise deterrents, which are proving really successful. They are also providing locals with cell phones so that they can contact the rangers for direct assistance if an orangutan is in a community owned durian tree,” says the Zoo’s deputy curator of mammals, Amy Robbins, who founded SRP in 2016. This means orangutans can be encouraged back to the forest safely by the rangers rather than risk reprisal attacks from frustrated durian owners.


Welcoming orangutan baby Bahmi into the world

Primate keeper Sarah explains the important training and care involved in Melur's pregnancy journey.

With the community’s support the Zoo is proud to have been supporting the conservation of orangutans in the wild in Sumatra (Indonesia) for more than 20 years now. In this time, our longest partnership has been with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP).

The world’s leading authority on the conservation of this critically endangered great ape, SCOP has rescued, rehabilitated, and released hundreds of orangutans back into safe areas in the wild – which has seen the establishment of two entirely new populations of the species.

Excitingly, SOCP is soon to complete and open Orangutan Haven – the first of its kind in the world, just outside Medan, in North Sumatra.

The haven will become home to rescued orangutans, that due to various disabilities and health issues (many are blind as a result of being shot with air rifles) cannot be released back to the wild.

Made up of nine islands located within 48ha, the haven will provide these orangutans – conservation ambassadors - with a stunning naturalistic environment and all of the ongoing healthcare that they need.

A key role of the haven, that will be open to the public, will also be conservation education.

“Many Indonesians have never seen an orangutan, and this haven is going to offer incredible opportunities for them to do so, and to learn and understand more about their plight and be inspired to want to ensure their future,” says Amy.

Amy, who has volunteered her time and expertise at both SOCP’s quarantine facility and the Orangutan Haven will be heading to the haven in September, and we look forward to bringing you updates on Amy’s return.