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Friday 2 December 2016

VIDEO: Meet Dublin Zoo's newest residents, the Orangutans... and take a trip around their new home

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 08/06/2016 | 14:10

Sibu the Orangutan is climbing to new heights in a new €3m habitat opened at Dublin Zoo today.

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The Orangutan Forest consists for huge life-like trees built with hidden mechanisms which encourage the four resident orangutans to climb up to 12 metres high to the tree tops to get their daily food.

Many of the impressive trees are on a new large island constructed in the lake.

Sibu (35) and his mate Leonie (35) delighted crowds at the zoo today when they shimmied across ropes high above the footpaths to reach their new island playground.

“This wonderful new habitat will add complexity to their lives and stimulate their natural behaviours,” said zoo director Leo Oosterweghel.

“Every detail of Orangutan Forest has been considered carefully with the wellness of the orangutans in mind and the design was always inspired by their natural habitat,” he said.

Female Orangutan Leonie(35) enjoying their new Home in Dublin Zoo. Picture: Kyran O’Brien
Female Orangutan Leonie(35) enjoying their new Home in Dublin Zoo. Picture: Kyran O’Brien

“The orangutans will be able to live more like orangutans in the wild. Orangutans spend most of their lives in trees in rainforests,” he said.

The new habitat was  inspired by the natural environment of the Bornean orangutans, the tropical rainforests of Borneo.

Their new habitat is five times bigger than their old home in the zoo. The new island is 80 metres long.

Riona (10), the daughter of Sibu and Leonie, and Mujur, the couple’s neice, share the new habitat along with a group of siamang gibbons.

“The opening of Orangutan Forest is another milestone on our journey to continue to develop Dublin Zoo into a world class zoo and provide an excellent visitor experience,” said the director.

“This wonderful new habitat will add complexity to their lives and stimulate their natural behaviours,” he said.

The new habitat was officially opened by Ruth Breen (11), on behalf of the children of Ireland. Ruth won a poetry competition in conjunction with the Irish Independent which promoted awareness of orangutans.

Ruth travelled with her family from Inchiholohan House, Kells Road, Kilkenny, and her classmates from Burnchurch National School for the opening event today. She recited her winning poem before unveiling a special plaque with Tom Dunphy, president of the zoo’s council.

Ciaran McMahon, team leader at Dublin Zoo, said “wow” was the best way to describe the new habitat. The food is placed in remote control mechanisms to carry it to the tops of the trees and the orangutans take the food from ‘puzzle’ feeders to stimulate their minds.

The first orangutan to scale the 10 metre high rope bridge to the new island was Leonie, followed later by Sibu, he said.

Bornean orangutans are classified as endangered. The main threat to orangutans is deforestation.

Over the past 30 years, 80pc of orangutan habitat has been destroyed due to detrimental, widespread deforestation due to forest clearing for oil-palm plantations, illegal mining and forest fires for ‘slash-and-burn’ agriculture.

To raise awareness of the plight of the orangutans, Dublin Zoo has launched a major fundraising initiative for their partners the Orangutan Foundation. 

From 11th – 19th June inclusive, Dublin Zoo will donate €2.50 from every ticket purchased to the Orangutan Foundation. 

Dublin Zoo is also calling on the Irish public to get involved by texting  “Save” to 50300 to donate €2. Donations can also be made at the collection points on South King Street on June 11 and 12 or at Dublin Zoo.

“The situation with orangutans is now critical.  Orangutans are endangered,” said Mr Oosterweghel.

“This species is just about hanging on and their habitat is being destroyed rapidly. Every minute, an area of rainforest the size of 10 football pitches is lost in Indonesia due to deforestation.

“The most recent reports suggested that 98pc of Indonesia’s natural rainforest may be destroyed by 2022,” he said.

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