Meeting Their Peers
When fit and healthy, the orangutans can then be gradually introduced to other individuals again. They learn to interact with other orangutans and "groups" are established which can then be transferred together to the reintroduction site.
After each orangutan has successfully completed its quarantine period and been treated for any illnesses they may have had, we then embark on the process of introducing them to other orangutans. Sometimes we can begin this process whilst they are still housed in the isolation cages. If we are sure that two adjacent orangutans are healthy, we can replace the solid metal door between them with a more open mesh door that allows them to meet each other and interact without any risk of injury. During this initial process we observe them closely to see if there is any aggression between them. We are always careful to get to know the orangutans individually, well before this stage, so we already have a good idea of who is likely to get along with whom. If our predictions are correct (and so far they usually have been), we can then open up the door after a few days and allow them to play with each other in the same cage.
In the majority of cases, however, we begin the introduction process up at the much larger socialization cages. After they have been pronounced fit, we will select a number of individuals that we feel are likely to get along as a group and move them one by one up to these larger cages. Here they can also begin to meet each other through the bars but without actually being in the same cage. As with introductions in the isolation area we monitor closely their interactions for some time before deciding who to mix with whom. One by one or pair by pair we can then gradually "build" a group of socially compatible orangutans that know each other well and enjoy each others company. Once we have such a group, we then begin to arrange the process of transferring them to the re-introduction site in Jambi.
This stage in the process is a very rewarding one. Often when an orangutan meets another orangutan at the quarantine center it is the first time they have done so since their own capture, and the death of their mother. Frequently you can see a new sparkle in their eyes and a renewed enthusiasm about life in general when they first figure out that they can play with other orangutans again, and that they are not in fact just weird hairy humans!