You wait ages for an orangutan and then three come along at once!!


OuTrop interns have the opportunity to experience all of our projects to get a better understanding of conservation. Connie, a gibbon intern here for 6 months, has spent the past three days searching for wild orangutans. Trying to find orangutans in the forest is not as easy as you may think, as Connie found out.

When searching for orangutans I am always on tenterhooks; I listen out for every little rustle of leaves and every breaking branch. I long to hear the characteristic chomping sound that they make when feeding, or the breaking of a rotten branch that signifies that they are looking for termites. Sometimes I get excited about a movement in the trees a few metres away, only to be disappointed to see a squirrel run out of the foliage or a bird flap away over the canopy. I walk slowly and wait every five minutes in the hope that I will hear even the slightest noise.


It’s always a privilege to see orangutans, like Fio (a juvenile male), in Sabangau. Photo by Connie Miller/OuTrop

I spent the last three days searching for orangutans. Although Sabangau has the largest population of orangutans in the world, this week it felt like they had all gone on holiday! We had a school group visiting from Australia and a local school in Palangka Raya, so we wanted to be able to show them wild orangutans, but alas! On the night before they were leaving, just as it was getting dark, the red langur field team returned to camp and said that they had seen an orangutan, but unfortunately it was too late for us to go out to search.

Yesterday we went out searching again. Four of us split up and spread out in the forest. By midday I hadn’t seen anything. At this time it gets very hot and the forest turns eerily quiet.

They may be orange and large, but it’s not always easy to spot an orangutan in the forest. Photo by Connie Miller/OuTrop

But there it was – a crashing ahead of me! An orangutan! Wait, no, three orangutans! I was so excited to tell the other guys and let them know so that they could come to meet me. I had found a female and her juvenile offspring, and an unflanged male. The female was Feb, a habituated individual who OuTrop have followed for 12 years, and her offspring, Fio, a juvenile male. Feb was feeding and Fio was playing close to her.

I was able to take some photos of Fio as he stared inquisitively at me from up in the canopy. Standing quietly on my own in the forest, observing these beautiful creatures, I felt like the most privileged person in the world. After three days of searching, all the expectation and waiting was immediately worthwhile.

Fio gives his best poses for the camera. Photo by Connie Miller/OuTrop