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Wild Animals/Question re Orang-utan behaviour

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Question
Hi,

I am currently completing a course in Zoo Keeping. As part of that course I am required to completed a problem based learning task based in animal enrichment.

This is the problem I have been presented with

Orang-utan Molobo has been with the zoo for over 3 years. She has recently been moved to an enclosure with a smaller outdoor area but a larger social group. There are ropes and tree stumps available as enrichment. Molobo has not been observed using the ropes or stumps. Over the past 12 months she has started displaying stereotypies such as rocking and self-aggressive behaviour. This stereotypical behaviour is gradually getting worse. She appears to be a subordinate in the group and keepers have recorded gradual weight loss over the past 6 months. The keepers want to improve the wellbeing of Molobo through a combination of physical, social, sensory and feeding enrichment strategies.


I am required to contact someone within the field to gain their views on the problem, potential avenues of treatment and what they might do to overcome the problem.

I hope you are able to help me out.

Answer
Dear Khalia

Thank you for your question. I also wish to thank the authors of the websites I used.

Please note that I am not an expert on animal enrichment, although I have seen various zoos that have tried various techniques to improve the lives of their animals.

I suggest that you contact a local zoo that keeps orang-utans and arrange to communicate with the orang-utan specialist there. http://www.zoo.org.au/ should help.

http://www.eaza.net/activities/cp/Pages/EEPs.aspx gives a list of international studbook keepers. These people have details on which zoos keep different species of animals and may suggest the best contacts for people wanting general information about species. Clemens Becker at Karlsruhe Zoo, Germany has been the studbook keeper for Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus) and Sumatran orang-utan (Pongo abelii)since 1990. http://www.quantum-conservation.org/EEP/ORANG%20UTAN.html gives the address of Dr Becker as well as that of Neil Benment at Paignton Zoo. It also enables you to send an e-mail to Dr Becker.

I'm sorry I couldn't help more, but I am sure that you are just as capable of doing on-line searches as I am and probably have more detailed knowledge as to the type of answer that your course tutor is looking for.

All the best

Jonathan

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Jonathan Wright

Expertise

I can answer questions about wild mammals and other animals, as well as extinct animals and zoos. I am not an expert about every animal species. I can look up information from books and the internet, but can't verify if all the information is true. Please don't ask questions about: 1. Pets. I am not a vet. Please contact a vet if your pet is ill. You may need to spend some money if you want your pet to live. Don't get a pet if you don't know how to look after it and if you can't provide it with the space, food and possible companions that will help it live a healthy life. Don't take animals from the wild, unless they are ill and/or injured and you can protect them until a wildlife charity can help. It is cruel to take animals from their parents, especially if the parents will look for the babies, while putting their other babies at risk. You may be breaking the law by keeping wild animals or you may need a licence to look after some species. Please check with a local wildlife group. 2. Eggs: Please don't remove eggs from nests. The mother birds provide the right temperature for the eggs and won't sit on them if the temperature is warm enough for them to develop naturally. It is illegal to remove eggs of some species and, unless you have an incubator or a broody hen, the egg may not develop. If you are allowed to touch the eggs, you can candle them to see if they are fertile. If theys aren't fertile, they won't hatch. 3. Fights: Please don't ask about fights between different animals. These questions assume that individuals of two species fight each time they meet and that one species will always be victorious over another. This is untrue. There are cases where a live mouse has been fed to a venomous snake, bitten the snake leading to the snake's demise. 4: Diseases: Please ask doctors or other medical experts about diseases that you may catch from animals. I can't advise on how to deal with viruses, bacteria etc.

Experience

I have a zoology degree and have been interested in animals since I was two. I am a zoo volunteer at London Zoo. I have appeared on a BBC Radio Quiz, 'Wildbrain'.

Organizations
WWF. ZSL. Natural History Museum. RSPB. London Bat Group.

Publications
Newsletters of London Zoo volunteers and the London Bat Group

Education/Credentials
BSC degree in Zoology. 'A' level in Zoology. 'O' Level in Biology.

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