On 4th January 2014, we lost a magnificent orangutan species.
To be clear, the world loses many magnificent orangutans these days. They die fast that experts suppose one of the two orangutan species to be extinct in the wild environment in the next ten years. However, this particular orangutan did not live in a wild area. He was born in captivity and utilized while living in the zoo.
A Sumatran orangutan, Kutai, with a weight of almost 200 pounds, stood as tall as a man and had the hair color of the Australian outback. As Kutai moved up to the glass, his face as round and large as a plate of dinner, you felt equal respect for the glory of this species and an immediate sense of feat, like perhaps the human beings were not so rigid after all.
Within the 20 years of the life of this magnificent orangutan, zoos have changed from arks for species conservation to institutes focusing on animal welfare, education, and research.
However, what is a zoo? For some people, it is nothing more than jail for animal species. For other individuals, it is a secure site for a family outing. For those who saw the public butchering of the giraffe in Denmark, zoos can put into the macabre. However, the truth is zoos are something more than you see in a regular visit. The experience of Kutai shows the metamorphosis of the zoo and its transforming role in society.
In 1993, in Kansas at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Kutai was born. Before he was eight years old, he was shifted to Oregon, where he met Inji, his grandmother, in a wild-caught magnificent orangutan from the ancient period where animal species were captured routinely in the wild and sent to zoos. He lived in the indoor-only home in an old primate dwelling for the first nine years at Oregon Zoo.
His habitat had few windows and high ceilings; the walls were given a green color and wooden play assembly comparatively intact in the room’s centre. The former director of the zoo, Tony Vecchio, called the primate to show the worst he had to experience during his zoo time. Magnificent orangutans have complicated emotional, cognitive, and physical requirements, and they require something more engaging and innovative. And Kutai was a particularly tricky species. According to Vecchio, Kutai was not the species you liked to play chess with.
This exhibit fueled the anti-zoo rhetoric among different animal-right activities and uneasy feelings for various zoo guests who were anxious that the animals were unhappy, bored, or not correctly cared for. Such habitats made the animal species easy for the people to see and living area easy for the keepers to clean.
However, as individuals have learned more about the animals’ needs, naturalistic homes have become a standard. The shift has been gradual; however, soon, the concrete cages can be a distinct memory.
The keepers of Kutai had to consider different ways to interact with the young orangutan and his fellows, known as environmental enrichment. The magnificent orangutan species liked wearing different clothes, as it turned out. Inji and Kutai would actively put on other T-shirts and display them in front of visitors. The orangutan species would react to hay and boxes, making the nests close to the window where they could watch the zoo visitors comfortably.
From 2000 to 2013, I loved to work at Kutai’s zoo, first as a demanding volunteer exploring the community service hours and later as an education looking for different ways to share my newfound wildlife passion. While playing the role of a camp counsellor, I would bring groups of kids to the show.
Usually, Kutai would be crouched close to the glass, his fur pressed against the window. My campers could just hardly wait for their turn before going to occupy the prime estate in front of Kutai. It was challenging to keep them silent while copying the stance of Kutai. However, their energetic excitement settled into a hush.
In the starting years as a counsellor, I would try to gain knowledge about magnificent orangutan species. Do you know what is meant by brachiation? Do you hear of palm oil? However, I soon knew that the best introduction I could offer my students was not to let them learn about different ways that orangutan species move or even the threat details these animal face in a wild environment; however, to simply let them interact. They would push their nametags and pull them to the glass. Just one or two animals would reach out their hands. Kutai would reach out in response once or twice.
This type of experience is precious and rare. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredit many zoos, and they are situated in urban places, the areas where access to wildlife is reduced. With exotic animal species like orangutans, the chance of an encounter with the wild animals in a naturalistic environment is remote. Although menageries were built once as a playground for the elite, aquariums and modern zoos, offer people the opportunity to see and associate with animals of all types from all around the globe. Even better, individuals see aquariums and zoos as being politically, socioeconomically, and racially neutral.
In 2008, the future of Inji and Kutai was altered intensely. The zoo saved funding for a naturalistic environment, Red Ape Reserve, that housed the magnificent orangutan species with white gibbons. In a wild environment, the gibbons and orangutans usually share a similar forest. The employees of the zoo were excited about the news.
The primate homes are demanding to engineer, provided with the complex psychological and physical needs of the animal species, and the zoo was composed to make something best. The ideas began flying: sway poles intended to look something like bamboo, a tunnel appears like a log where the magnificent orangutan species could watch the guests entering the show area.
Before the animal species were moved in, the staff members were permitted to play in a new home. Well! We climbed the ropes, saw the new region’s intricacies, and strengthened our faith that it would be the best new habitat for Kutai and Inji.
The new dwelling place was lavish with the best flora, a feature of babbling water, valleys, and hills. Maybe a significant aspect of the new home was an enrichment tree “40-foot-tall” in its middle. There was a spiral staircase in the trunk and multiple openings where people could store food for the magnificent orangutans. Looking at the top of the zoo by standing at the enrichment tree’s canopy, I observed that things were improving.
Before working at the Oregon Zoo, I had not been a zoo lover; however, I had not to doubt. I visit the zoo once a year, along with my family members. It was amusing – I saw different things, including hippos, took some selfies, and ate ice cream. I ambiguously thought it could be best if all the animals could live in wide-open areas, collaborating with human beings.
However, as a kid, I knew it was not productive. When I was in 8th class, I went on the school tour to the zoo, where we were given the assignment to redesign the animal display. It was the first time I ever know, considering that here was the chance to offer better lives for different animals and strong connections between people and animals.
The bird’s diorama show that I built was a real artwork; however, somehow, the zoo did not instantly reconstruct the habitat of the eagle as per my suggestion. However, the new zoo homes were being made depending on a similar vision of education and welfare.
In 2010, the big day of Inji and Kutai came. In front of media, visitors, and excited staff, the gibbons scurried, Inji discovered. However, maybe the most exciting picture of the day was Kutai, dangling from the canopy, revealing his massive form as nobody had seen before.
Well! Life in the reserve was great. The animal species were highly energetic than ever. Usually, Kutai climbed along with the mesh, a view that consistently halted the people in their tracks. When the crowd grew more, I would fasten my steps to join them, as I knew they saw something stunning.
The new show became a useful tool for education. When the eager teen volunteers served as spokespeople, the zoo brought much environmental harm to light from the farming of palm oil and its harsh outcomes for different animals such as orangutans.
In the last four years, magnificent orangutan species reduced 14% because of the habitat devastation from the increasing plantation. Listening to the stories, visitors’ eyes would change from the teens to Inji, patiently sitting in the best of straw. Her existence brought this data – ambiguous numbers from a distant land- to life.
I wanted to say that I had seen Kutai before he died or that I had a distressing story about viewing him drawing his last breath. However, I do not. I was at the bar with two friends from the zoo. One of my beloved friends asked cautiously, “Did you hear?” “Kutai died yesterday.” I was distressed. I was surprised. I talked to everyone I knew who could care and some of those who did not. In our talk about this orangutan’s species over some next days, I and my friends agreed on one thing: we were happy that he loved such a great life.
Now, I am working as a consultant and assist zoos in evaluating the impact that their exhibits and programs have on the way guests act, feel, and think towards wildlife. In my trendy moments – the ones I do not spend in front of a PC – I get to visit different zoos around the country, viewing what is new.
On a snowy day in December, I went to see the new sea lion exhibit of St. Louis Zoo, where many animals moved from land to water. During a week spent in the tent at the Safari Park of San Diego Zoo, I saw the zoo break ground on the massive tiger home. On a peaceful day in central California, I was excited over the blueprints of Fresno-Chaffee Zoo for the new Africa exhibit that would double the size of the whole park.
The statistics I have got show that zoos move our relationships with animals in a positive direction. Well! Every zoo is not perfect. There are many unsatisfying exhibits. Sometimes, some animals die, and nobody knows why. However, if you have gone to the zoo and had that uncomfortable feeling that you could not quite place, you are not unaccompanied.
The individuals working in the zoo have those feelings too and need nothing more to enhance the quality of every animal’s life to the possible standard. However, zoos cannot take essential steps alone. The zoos power lies in reaching diversity and the number of people unmatched by the other educational outlet short of schools. Without people’s support, moving forward with the best dwelling place, educational programs, and field conservation becomes almost impossible.
On 5th May, the head veterinarian and director of the zoo were fired. The government of the city running the zoo explained the death of Kutai as a primary motivation. The releases show that following high-quality animal care can be complicated, and zoos consistently question their practice with the aim to improve. Although the death of Kutai has resulted in controversy, his life was full of examples, including the dedication and care that visitors, scientists, educations, veterinarians, and keepers offer to animals at the zoo.
However, Kutai was not unique in addition to being exceptional. The next time you see yourself with nothing to do on the weekend, scope out your local aquarium or zoo. Stay more time at the couple exhibits and see after dispersing the crowd. Find the keeper explaining the chat and feeding session with her. Look at the visit with a new vision and inquire, what are the stories of the zoo? Who is the Kutai? And what can you do to assist?