Orang-utans are solitary by nature and especially adult males often prefer to live alone. However, sometimes they enjoy a bit of company too. Willow - our female, aged 23 - has been showing some serious interest in our big, boofy, dreadlocked male, Jantan - aged 21 - for a few years now. We have tried to introduce them a couple of times over the past five years, but each time Jantan was very obviously not keen on the idea. He would stay as far away from the amiable Willow who would gently approach Jantan, gingerly touching his hands and feet with just one out-stretched finger. She even came with offerings of food, which for our gutsy girl is quite a friendly move! But Jantan would continue to ignore her and turn the other way - seeming somewhat agitated with the situation so efforts to get them together were temporarily abandoned.
However this time was a different story. We had been seeing some very positive signs from both Willow and Jantan. Having recently moved into a temporary abode while our Chimpanzee family occupy the Orang-utan exhibit (while the chimpanzee exhibit is upgraded) Jantan and Willow have been behaving a little differently and showing a definite interest in one another. Sitting at their night den doors, peering through the cracks at one another and constantly checking out where each other is and what each other is getting up to. So we decided it was time to give them another go. A new home, new settings and sights and sounds, just might be what they need to kick start a long-lasting relationship.
We set up a neutral area in their enclosure with all sorts of Orang-utan treats and goodies. Surprise boxes full of their favourite fruits, yogurt splashes all over the walls, plenty of juicy banana trunk, scatters of sultanas and popcorn, pinecones stuffed with porridge! Yum! We opened the slide between them and watched quietly to see what would happen. As expected Willow was the first to approach Jantan who sat peering around wondering what was going on. Willow made soft little greeting calls and carefully reached out to touch Jantan's hands and face. She then picked up a piece of coconut (a FAVOURITE food) and (having a little nibble first) offered it to Jantan. Jantan made a slight effort to take it but let it drop to the ground, still looking around and at us, his keepers, seeming a little perplexed.
Willow continued to extend her hand of friendship, but soon became overwhelmed by the abundance of goodies around her and started tucking in! Within a few minutes Jantan relaxed a little and did exactly what we had hoped for and started to pursue Willow and to mate her - perfect adult male Orang-utan behaviour and Willow participated willingly allowing it to unfold exactly as it should.
A week later and the two are inseparable. Sharing their nights dens, outdoor day yards, food, climbing platforms and with no sign of anxiety or aggression. In fact at the slightest hint that their keeper is going to separate them they cling to one another letting us know loud and clear that this situation is to remain permanent - at least for now.