Earlier this February, CaShawna Wright decided to take her one-year-old son Cruse on a playdate with a close friend to the Los Angeles Zoo. Little did she know that their day would take an unexpected turn with a clever orangutan.
30-year-old Wright noted that it was her son’s first zoo visit. They spent the day strolling around and enjoying the various exhibits, and at the end of the day, they decided to search for the gorillas.
Their search led them to the renowned orangutan exhibit, where something immediately caught their attention.
Wright jokingly recalled, “Some orangutan humping was going on.”
While not an uncommon sight in the animal kingdom, it was enough to divert her attention from Cruse. That’s when he inadvertently tossed his bottle onto the ground, bouncing into a pool of water just a few feet away from the exhibit’s fence, where one orangutan eagerly awaited on the other side.
Wright’s friend quickly alerted the staff, who sent a zookeeper to retrieve the bottle.
Wright began recording the incident on her phone, thinking about her late father, who would have absolutely loved to see something like this.
The TikTok video she later shared showed the orangutan playfully slapping the water in the pool where the bottle had landed. She then left for a second, quickly returning with a long strip of brown paper from inside her enclosure before skillfully fashioning it into a makeshift hook.
With her improvised tool, she skillfully maneuvered the paper through the fence gaps, hooking the paper around the bottle and pulling it towards herself. The crowd went wild as the orangutan’s long, hairy arm grabbed the end of the bottle.
The primate even indulged in a little celebration with a drink from the bottle, which happened to be filled with apple juice.
Of course, TikTokers were elated with the now-viral video. Who doesn’t love a big orangutan?!
One TikToker said, “If there wasn’t video evidence, this would be hard to believe!”
“Animals are truly incredible!” said another user, while someone else admitted, “That orangutan is officially more resourceful than me.”
Wright also noticed that her son Cruse was just as captivated by the whole spectacle. “He was really in touch with the crowd’s energy. All of the people around him were clapping, so he started clapping too.”
Two days later, Wright and her husband contacted the zoo to see how the orangutan was doing. According to Wright, the zoo had placed the orangutan under observation, and she’s doing amazingly well. Though she wasn’t sick, it’s standard zoo protocol when animals come in contact with foreign objects or ingest something that isn’t part of their diet.
What she did find out was that orangutans have an incredible adeptness when it comes to utilizing tools.
According to the L.A. Zoo’s website, orangutans employ branches from their natural habitat as rakes, hammers, and poles to knock down fruits, measure water depth, or search for termites.
They even use leaves napkins, sponges, and umbrellas, and have an impressive long-term memory and vocabulary with the ability to recognize over 72 symbols specific to numbers, objects, or commands.
Unfortunately, the World Wildlife Fund says Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are facing critical endangerment, with significant declines in their populations.
Over the past 100 years, their numbers have dropped drastically. Some experts say there were once more than 230,000 orangutans in the wild. Now, there are around 7,500 Sumatran orangutans and a little over 104,000 Bornean orangutans.
In a recent interview, Wright spoke about the intelligence of great apes, stating, “I’ve always been aware of how smart they are.”
Through trips to the zoo and wildlife documentaries, getting to see their spontaneous behavior, especially without training or external incentives, is awe-inspiring.
She described the bottle incident as a truly remarkable experience.
Wright hopes that her video, as cute as it is, can serve as a catalyst for raising awareness about other endangered species and the devastating impact of deforestation on wildlife
She recognizes how sad it is to see such intelligent creatures confined to cages rather than their natural habitats, and hopes that by spreading this kind of information, she can inspire people to delve deeper into these pressing issues.