In Borneo, the orangutan species is greatly endangered by palm oil production. The climate in Borneo is considered ideal for growing palm oil, a vegetable oil that can be found in around 50 percent of consumer goods, and as a result, the ancient rainforests of this island are being destroyed at a rapid rate.
Habitat loss poses an enormous threat to the tree-dwelling orangutan population. When their homes are slashed and burned to create palm plantations, many lose their lives. Those who do survive are forced to nest in palm plantations and are often targeted by farmers as pests and they are sadly killed on the spot, or sold into the pet trade. If deforestation for palm oil continues, it is estimated that the orangutan population will only have 30 more years in the wild before they are declared extinct.
Thankfully, Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) is working to rescue and rehabilitate orangutans who have been displaced by palm oil production. Mimi is one of the orangutans in the care of OFI’s Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine.
Mimi came to the center as a baby who was no more than one year old. She had lost her mother, likely from poachers or palm producers, and was all alone. Like human children, young orangutans rely completely on their mothers for care for their first two years of life. The bond between mother and child is incredibly strong, so this loss was understandably difficult for Mimi.
As a result of all the changes and tragedies that had defined Mimi’s young life, she grew depressed. She lost her appetite and started to lose her fuzzy orange hair. Her rescuers explain that depression is a sad reality in orangutan rehabilitation, but given the complex emotional nature of these creatures, it is to be expected.
Luckily, the center knew exactly how to care for Mimi and put her on a special diet and allowed her more time outside her sleeping enclosure. Because baby orangutans cling to their mothers when they are young, Mimi needed a lot of extra TLC to help her feel better.
Her caretakers explain that was a slow journey, but soon her hair started to grow back and her bubbly personality returned. “To see Mimi today, it would be hard to imagine this cheerful girl was ever feeling down,” OFI describes.
Now Mimi spends her days playing with her three best friends, Mendru, Sinta, and Glenda. The four love to build nests in the outdoor enclosure and Mimi often makes multiple nests throughout the day.
“Mimi can definitely make a nest, but she isn’t satisfied with building just one. She will go on to make one after another after another,” writes OFI. She has even been given the nickname, “The Goldilocks of Borneo,” because she is always looking for a bed that is just right!
Building nests is a natural skill that Mimi will need when she is finally released back into the wild. While she will remain in the center for a few more years yet, her caretakers write, “When her time for permanent release arrives, I know this sweet girl will just light up the forest!”
Keep on smiling little Mimi!