In fact, its very name comes from the Indonesian words orang (people) and hutan (forest). While these tree-dwelling “people of the forest” were once found as far north as India and China, they can now only be found on the remote islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
Their populations have declined significantly over the past hundred years and in recent decades have succumbed to the destruction of their native habitat. These great apes have some very unique characteristics that distinguish them from other primates. Orangutans are perfectly suited for life in the trees — their hands and feet work nearly interchangeably with opposable thumbs and opposable big toes. Paired with their incredible upper body strength, this allows them to grasp tree branches securely while moving through the forest canopy. At the Center, we’ve developed an elegant “functional forest” that allows orangutans to live like orangutans. The broad canopied towers of the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, Oases and special equipment may not look like a forest to your eyes, but to an orangutan they will serve the same purpose. This allows them to make choices about where they want to go, who they want to spend time with, and gives easy vertical and horizontal access across the Zoo campus. Plus, from the peaks of their 80-foot towers they’ll enjoy spectacular views of downtown Indianapolis!
Intelligent, social leader and patient
Of all the orangutans at the Indianapolis Zoo, Azy is the oldest and largest male. He is also the dominant male. Despite his size, he is calm and gentle. Azy is eager to learn new tasks, especially those that provide a mental challenge. Azy has extensive experience in cognitive testing and has participated in studies of tool use, quantity judgment and counting. He is great at using computers, with many years of experience.
Playful, fun, loves hiding in barrels and wraps up in blankets
Basan can be shy at first, but is gaining confidence. He likes to do somersaults and loves all kinds of food. He is very inquisitive and also enjoys playing with water, taking whatever containers are available and filling them up. Basan is Mila's father.
Shy, creative and playful
Because Charly is extremely shy, you might find him alone in one of the Oasis buildings. His artistic side shines through when he builds elaborate nests each night, using blankets and sheets. Charly also enjoys observing people. Charly likes many different kinds of food, particularly sweet potatoes, yogurt, grapes, seeds and fruit smoothies. He will only eat his apples, though, if they are cooked!
Quick learner, sometimes shy and observant
Many people describe her as one of the most beautiful orangutans they have ever seen. While initially shy around other orangutans, she has gained confidence and great social skills. She also enjoys spending time with her human caretakers, especially watching them put things together and using tools. A quick learner, she enjoys using the computer. She is also a great at whistling, a skill she uses to get the attention of people she likes. Katy is Rocky's biological mother, but they were separated when he was very young. Now that they've been reunited, they do spend time together and are forming a playful relationship.
Social, active and most dominant female
Knobi is very confident and assertive. She has a very close relationship with Azy. Knobi likes to keep things neat and tidy, frequently picking up anything that's out of place and wiping down dirty surfaces. Knobi has adopted Rocky and is teaching him what it means to be an orangutan. Knobi was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but her condition is successfully managed with a balanced diet and regular activity. Knobi is a little particular about the food she eats. She likes apples and peanuts, but she will absolutely not eat tomatoes!
Gentle, although she challenges Knobi's dominance.
Earning the nickname "Lightning Lucy" for her quickness, Lucy is one athletic orangutan! When she arrived, she weighed 217 pounds, almost 100 pounds more than a healthy weight for an adult female orangutan. But as a result of an improved diet and exercise, she lost nearly 100 pounds and looks terrific. She gets along well with Azy and likes to spend time with him. Otherwise, she can be pretty shy.
Full of energy with a bit of a mischievous side
When he first came here from the Jackson Zoo in Mississippi, Max was showing signs of slow development. Now, this young Bornean orangutan is full of energy, and continues to make great progress in his appetite, activity and coordination. Bright-colored items often spark his interest. He also likes to eat fruit and baby cereal, but will bite down on the spoon when being fed, which shows his mischievous side.
Active and has no fear; always exploring. She enjoys being around her Aunt Nicky and Aunt Knobi.
Mila means "dear one" in Indonesian. A Sumatran orangutan, she is the daughter of Sirih and Basan and is the youngest of the Zoo's great apes. Guests can catch her climbing and swinging around in the Atrium of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. This growing girl is a big eater – often trying to eat handfuls of food all at once or taking her mom's hard-boiled eggs and protein bars.
Sweet and calm
Nicky enjoys spending time in small groups. Like many female orangutans, food is her top priority and she is an enthusiastic eater. Remarkably sweet and calm, she has developed very good social skills with other orangutans.
High energy, very social and playful
Rocky is inquisitive and loves attention from both orangutans and people. This makes him a quick and eager learner. Rocky is like a typical young boy and he can sometimes pester the other orangutans! He loves attention and likes to find trouble. Knobi has become like his adoptive mother.
Quiet and curious
Sirih joined us from the Frankfurt Zoo in Germany, so her first language is German! While our Zookeepers are working to teach her English, they have had to learn a little German in the process. Sirih also loves making her sleeping nests so tall that she can barely peek out of the top! Sirih is a caring and attentive mother to Mila.
Look no further. Connect with our amazing animals and learn about the wild places they come from.
The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP) works to conserve viable populations of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans through habitat protection, reintroduction of apes from the pet trade, as well as scientific research and education.
Since 2015, the Zoo has provided funding for the Sikundur Monitoring Post, located within the Gunung Leuser National Park and larger Leuser Ecosystem National Strategic Area.
The Post focuses on behavioral research, in addition to monitoring and protecting the habitat of this vital area.
The project started in 2009 in an effort to protect the seriously endangered orangutan population and recover the critical habitat that has been largely destroyed. The project is led by Dr. Anne Russon, who has studied orangutans for more than 30 years. The Kutai Orangutan Project site runs along the south side of the Sangata River and inland. This is an important site because it is vulnerable due to excessive clearing and people moving to the land. So far, the project has found more than two-dozen orangutans in this area. The Project says the orangutans are all healthy and reproducing normally. The Indianapolis Zoo supports both field research of this group of apes — including range, development and biology — as well as providing funds for a reforestation initiative to sustain healthy habitat for generations to come.
Everyone has the power to help save wild things and wild places. That power is your individual voice, your awareness and your actions. So in addition to visiting the Zoo and meeting our animal ambassadors, here are a few simple suggestions that will help save their counterparts in the wild:
The Animal Amigo program helps care for all of the animals at the Zoo by funding food, medical treatment, equipment, enrichment toys, and habitat improvement for the animals in our care. For a donation of $100 or more, you can sponsor an orangutan at the Indianapolis Zoo. You will receive a plush, collector card, certificate and recognition on the Animal Amigo donor board!Learn More
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