The Great Ape House and the Think Tank buildings at the National Zoo are home to six orangutans. The Zoo’s unique Orangutan Transit System (the O Line) allows the orangutans to choose whether they want to cross overhead on the cables and which of the two buildings they want to spend time in.
The orangutans, solitary in the wild, live in small groups or pairs at the Zoo. The two males, Kiko and Kyle, are not housed together, but the females have the flexibility to choose which group to join. Providing orangutans lots of choice and flexibility in their daily lives keeps them mentally stimulated and enriched. Orangutans are managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which seeks to maintain a genetically diverse, and healthy populations of both Bornean and Sumatran species of orangutans. Orangutan Facts
Batang is a female Bornean orangutan born in December 1996. She came from Topeka Zoo and is on a breeding loan from Brookfield Zoo. Staff hope she will breed with Kyle in the next few years, under the recommendation of the Species Survial Plan.
Batang has pale skin on her face, especially around her eyes and mouth, and is smaller in stature than the Zoo’s other female orangutans.
She is very inquisitive and craves attention at all times, which allows her to excel in our positive reinforcement husbandry training and research programs. Batang enjoys spending a few days with some of the orangutans, then switching groups, spending a few days with the other orangutans.
Bonnie is a female hybrid orangutan born in 1976 at the Rio Grande Zoo. She arrived at the National Zoo in 1980, soon after the Great Ape House was built. She has had one offspring, Kiko.
Bonnie is a particularly intelligent orangutan, constantly observing her environment and the orangutans and keepers around her. She made national news in 2008 for teaching herself how to whistle, without any human coaching. Bonnie travels the O Line frequently, but unlike most of the other orangutans, she usually does not choose to quickly cross from one end to the other, but instead likes to sit on top of one of the towers and watch the crowds down below.
Iris was born at the Zoo on April 15, 1987, and was named after IRS (Internal Revenue Service) because of her birth date.
Iris is a very charismatic orangutan who can be quite silly and playful, but also quite stubborn at times, especially when asked to come inside. She is the star of several research programs and loves to participate in our daily research demonstrations at Think Tank. Iris has been instrumental in developing new training procedures and goals because of how quick and eager she is to learn new things. Some of her favorite activities include playing in boxes or under sheets, and painting.
Kiko is the Zoo’s only fully adult male orangutan. He weighs 230 pounds and is easily recognizable by his big cheekpads and long hair. Kiko is the star of the O Line because of his impressive display of arboreal skill when he brachiates (swings hand over hand) on the cables. He likes to sleep late and do what he wants, and he gets impatient when his keepers are not moving quickly enough (to his liking).
Kiko can be part of any social pairing with the other orangutans, with the exception of being in the same group as Kyle. The two males, although they interact quite positively and often through the cage mesh, are not housed together because of the risk of aggression during competition over female attention.
Kyle is a male Bornean orangutan born in 1996 at the Cleveland Zoo, and on a breeding loan from Hogle Zoo. He is in his awkward stage as a sub-adult male, just now starting to get his long hair and cheekpads. Sometimes Kyle is bold and playful and full of energy. At other times he prefers snuggling up to his favorite orangutan friend, Bonnie. He loves to play in water, craves attention from all of the other orangutans, and enjoys his favorite pastime—picking on Batang!
Lucy is a hybrid and the Zoo's oldest orangutan, She was born at the Zoo in 1973. Of all the orangutans, she is the crowd pleaser, delighting her fans by sitting up at the glass or in her circular window at the Ape House. Lucy is the only orangutan that chooses not to travel the O Line, although the keepers think that one day she will surprise them and head to Think Tank.
She loves colorful sheets and blankets and takes them wherever she goes, especially underneath one of the waterfalls. She comes up with new ways to entertain Zoo visitors and staff on a daily basis.
The orangutans are fed a morning diet that consists of leafy greens, carrots, green beans, and broccoli, and are usually fed together in small groups.
Enrichment is a big part of an orangutan’s day at the Zoo, as it is very important to keep the apes mentally and physically active. Small foods that can be mixed in with hay allow the orangutans to spend time doing one of their natural behaviors, foraging.
Positive reinforcement training, cognition research, and time outside fill the afternoon hours.
Afternoon diets include primate chow and various fruits and vegetables and, because of the higher caloric value of these items, the orangutans are separated so that each animal is ensured its proper diet. No day is routine with the orangutans at the Zoo because they are allowed so much flexibility and choice, and no two days are ever the same.