One of the challenges of training Redd is his proximity to Batang, funnily enough. A key component of our training program is offering food rewards when an animal does the correct behavior asked of him or her. Sometimes, if Redd is training and Batang is nearby, she will take his rewards from him!
To ensure Redd gets his fair share, we are beginning to train him to voluntarily separate from his mom for short periods of time. Starting this process while he is young will also enable us to separate him from Batang during morning and afternoon feedings. In addition to foraging for food, each orangutan receives their own diet prepared by our Department of Nutrition Sciences and specially developed for each individual’s age and metabolic needs.
In 2019, primate keeper Erin Stromberg trained Redd to voluntarily receive vaccines, including his annual flu shot!
As far as other training behaviors go, Redd has mastered presenting each of his hands and feet for inspection, as well as both hips and shoulders. The primate team is able to take his temperature using an ear thermometer and his oxygen saturation and heart rate using a pulse oximeter.
Recently, I was able to get an electrocardiogram reading on him, too, though he doesn’t quite sit still as well as the adults do! As a juvenile who is always on the go, Redd’s heart rate is faster than those of the adults. Redd averages 115 beats per minute, whereas the adults typically range between 70 and 90 beats per minute.
Like most ape juveniles, Redd spends the majority of his day playing. Because orangutans are so intelligent, we offer several different kinds of enrichment on any given day to help keep them physically fit and mentally sharp. Some enrichment puzzle feeders contain food and encourage the orangutans to use their dexterity and cognitive skills to get the treats out. Other times, we will put small foods—like popcorn, nuts and seeds—into paper bags, or scatter them throughout hay so the apes can forage. Other enrichment items—like blankets, boxes, wood shavings or paper—are just fun to hide under or roll around in. Sometimes, they will even use these items to make their nests!
Batang, in particular, is very fond of playing in water. When keepers are cleaning, Batang will get our attention and let it be known that she wants to play. She seems to really enjoy stomping around in the water spray. Redd watched her do this often when he was younger. These days, he will join in the fun, too, running through the spray trying to catch water in his mouth. By the time we are finished playing, Redd and Batang are soaked, but they have a great time. I’m sure it feels good in our hot Washington, D.C. summer!