Interesting orangutan behaviour

Firstly, a big thank you to Brigiatta for your monthly donation and Maciej for your donation of $100. As you recently visited Tanjung Puting National Park and Camp Leakey this post should hopefully be of interest to you. In July, we discussed why the orangutan Riga shared her food with her mother, Rani. The reason may be biological or social but what is certain is that it is a rare event between adult orangutans; which is why it was surprising to see it happen again on Sunday – but this time with another twist.

Tom December 08

Tom - dominant male

Tom is the undoubted King of Camp Leakey; the dominant male. He doesn’t have to share anything with anybody if he doesn’t want to. On Sunday, he sat down with his bucket of milk and proceeded to slurp away at it with Siswi looking enviously at him. Tut then came up, she had not been to the afternoon feeding so may have been hungry. Tut is Tom’s mother but subordinate to Siswi, so she approached warily.

Tom, however, passed over the bucket without hesitation (and all Siswi could do is continue to look on greedily!).

Food sharing Dec 08

But what made all this doubly interesting is that it points to an answer to one of the big remaining questions of orangutan research: do they recognise their own parents/offspring? In reality, there is no more reason for Tom to share his milk with Tut than with Siswi (indeed, Tut is not in season but Siswi could be) and yet he did willingly. Why? It would be interesting to think Tom knows his mother and that was why he acted favourably towards her but like so much about orangutan behaviour we still have a lot to learn.

Thank you,


PS Apologies for the rain spot on the photo.