Primate keepers play an important role in orangutan conservation. We introduce visitors to these amazing animals, raise awareness about the threats they face in the wild and teach people ways that they can help make a difference for these animals in their native habitats.
To work with orangutans, it helps to have a lot of patience and the ability to think five steps ahead. Orangutans are wild animals and aren’t always gentle. Because orangutans are so smart, strong and curious, keepers have to be very thoughtful about the types of enrichment we give them. Sometimes, they can use those items in ways one wouldn’t expect. Lucy, for instance, gets a kick out of spitting water at keepers who pass by her enclosure. She seems to like the ‘surprise’ reaction she gets!
Know that orangutans can be a little naughty like this at times and do not take offense at their playful behavior. A good sense of humor will serve anyone who aspires to care for these and other primates well. Strike the right balance between respecting these animals for their wild nature while also celebrating their endearing (and sometimes silly) moments.
Planning a visit to the Zoo? Check out the Zoo’s orangutans in the Great Ape House and Think Tank. Plan your visit!
Allow your animal IQ climb to new heights with more stories from our keepers! Check out a variety of stories from all over Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute here.