POWELL — Dumplin, Khali and Sulango were serene and industrious as they clambered around in a 1,096-square-foot building made just for them, eating and grasping twigs as tools.
On July 29, the building, named the Ken Cooke and Jerry Borin Orangutan Indoor Habitat, was dedicated at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
“It’s an honor to have my name on the building,” Borin, the zoo’s president emeritus, said. Cooke was the former president of the board of directors.
The enclosure actually opened in March, but it wasn’t dedicated until last week. This new habitat is adjacent to the orangutans’ outdoor habitat. What makes it nice for visitors is they can now see the orangutans all year round, eating, climbing or resting. Previously, they stayed inside during the winter months, and the public couldn’t see them.
For these solitary great apes, they have more opportunities to play in the dayroom. They can even do some people-watching.
“There’s a lot of bells and whistles to challenge them,” said Columbus Zoo Director of Communications Jen Fields. “Since they’re arboreal (tree-dwelling), they need that vertical space.”
The two-story enclosure has plenty of windows to let the light in, metal poles that look like bamboo, firehose to replicate vines, ledges, gadgets and pulleys to provide “enrichment” for the orangutans. For the public, there’s several signs that talk about conservation efforts for the three endangered species of orangutans.
Now living in the wild only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, orangutan is Malay for person of the forest. According to Wikipedia, adult males weigh 165 pounds, half that for a female. They have an arm span of 7 feet and can live more than 30 years. The zoo said their diet includes tomatoes, carrots and alfalfa.
“We are incredibly excited to share this new habitat with the community,” said zoo Curator Audra Meinelt, in a release when the building first opened. “The construction and design of this space was truly a labor of love for the Zoo, and so many people from various departments have contributed to making it a successful space for our orangutans. Orangutans are highly intelligent, and they are extremely curious animals with excellent problem-solving abilities. This habitat provides us with many opportunities to engage the orangutans mentally while mimicking their natural behaviors.”
“This is still a zoological destination,” said Columbus Zoo President/CEO Tom Schmid during the dedication.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.