Few animals are as adept at swinging through the treetops as our primate cousins - but sometimes even they could use a refresher course. After years of being limited to mostly terrestrial locomotion, a group of orangutans at a zoo in the Netherlands now have a chance to get their swing on thanks to a newly renovated enclosure - if only someone would teach them how. With that in mind, the land-loving primates will soon receive a lesson in aerial gymnastics from Olympian Epke Zonderland in an effort to reacquaint them with their wild roots. The orangutan´s newly renovated enclosure is intended to better recreate their conditions in the wild with numerous trees for them to climb, but they´ve grown a bit comfortable with life on the ground floor. According to The Scotsman, the animals seem have lost their natural love of swinging.
In steps Epke Zonderland who competed in the high-bar event at the Beijing Olympics.
It is said that we can learn from apes how to climb, but this time they've asked me to get the apes back into the trees.
Zoo officials noted the importance of reuniting the orangutans with their native roots, an opportunity provided by their new enclosure. ¨In the wild, orangutans rarely come down to the ground¨ says the zoo. ¨In the improved enclosure the primates will be able to climb up one tree screened from the public to an outdoor enclosure with seven other trees ten metres high.¨
To teach them how to swing, Zonderland plans on starting them off with the easy stuff - on playground jungle gym. It´s not the forest canopy that wild orangutans are used to, but then again, the zoo apes are starting from square one.
For Zonderland, the chance to teach another primate how to swing will be a unique challenge. ¨I hope they will be relaxed enough to copy me. I have no experience with apes . . . hopefully they start swinging nicely from the trees,¨ he told the Scotsman.
While the swinging lessons may do wonders in getting zoo orangutans get back to their roots, perhaps we can all find some inspiration when it comes to lending our primate cousins a helping hand -- or branch.