Orangutan Jungle School Press Kit - Blue Ant Media
Orangutan Jungle School Press Kit - Blue Ant Media
A docu-soap following the hilarious antics, triumphs and tragedies of a gang of orphan orangutans as they progress through a unique forest school system. They don’t know it yet, but these curious youngsters are destined for great things if they graduate from this school with a difference... the chance to live free in the wild. Along the way they endure all the embarrassments, tears, tantrums and teenage crushes that come with growing up orangutan. THE STAKES ARE HIGH. THE EDUCATION IS WILD! ORANGUTAN JUNGLE SCHOOL © NHNZ commercial in confidence
THE LOCATION The Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue Center in Borneo, Indonesia, is the largest orang-utan rehabilitation centre in the world. The team rescues orangutans that have been displaced from their habitat or kept as illegal pets, and teach them the skills necessary to return to the wild. There are four stages within the school with over 600 students ranging in age from a few weeks old to young adults (equivalent to nineteen-year-olds). OJS follows the progress of a bunch of hero students through the four stages of their education... as well as introducing a supporting cast of bullies, best mates, rivals and prima donnas.
ORANGUTAN JUNGLE SCHOOL © NHNZ commercial in confidence
NURSERY SCHOOL Nursery School is where very young (new born – 2 years) recently rescued orangutan babies are cared for 24/7 by specially trained surrogate mums. It’s here the tiny orphans learn to trust again and their unique personalities emerge as they experience their first lessons in the forest, closely supervised by their babysitters, away from the boisterous older kids. Just like humans, the first years of an orangutan’s life are critical for their future development, and in the wild an orangutan mother never leaves her little one.
A baby orangutan who is left alone by their babysitter will become hysterical and scream very loudly.
In nursery school the orangutans wear diapers as they spend a large part of their day clinging to their babysitters. Baby orangutan wearing diapers are adorable – but this is purely a practical solution for their hygiene. The smaller infants are fed milk from a bottle until they are taught to eat different kinds of fruit and to drink from their own cups. THE CAST © NHNZ commercial in confidence
Some of the nursery cHARACTERS Bumi: Bumi is less than 1 year old. She was brought to Nyaru Menteng in June last year, aged just 2 weeks old, with the remnants of her umbilical cord still attached.
She weighed only 1.4kg on arrival, and has 2 bullets in her lungs. Her mother was shot in a nearby palm oil plantation. Noni: Noni was brought in as a baby with 3 bullets in her chest, a broken arm and a broken leg. She is growing confident in nursery school now, with bullets removed from her chest, but is still shy because of the trauma, and keeps her distance from strange men.
Luca: Six-month-old Luca is a little male who was rescued from a man who claimed he had ‘found’ the infant in the jungle. He picked up the baby, and in doing so, apparently caused a gaping wound on the infants head with his machete! Lucinda: Eight-month-old Lucinda came into the centre shortly after Luca. She was extremely malnourished and was almost scared of fruit as she had never been fed this as part of her diet. Luca and Lucinda drew courage from each other and quickly became the very best of friends. Their confidence and curiosity are growing every day and the keepers have high hopes for these gusty little fighters.
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FOREST SCHOOL Forest School ranges from the equivalent of elementary school to middle school, where rambunctious two to six-year-olds learn by chasing each other through the trees in the jungle surround Nyaru Menteng, and getting up to as much mischief as their babysitters can tolerate. Hidden within the ‘play’ however are valuable lessons for survival. They are divided into ‘classes” based on age, size and ability. They practise their climbing skills and this is often the stage where those who were horribly injured as babies learn to climb even if they are missing a hand or a foot. They learn about which fruits to eat, the 101 of tree-nest building, and also dangers to avoid in the jungle such as snakes and macaque monkeys.
The elementary school toddlers are often transported to and from class in fleets of the famous “wheelbarrow” school buses and when they return from spending all day in the forest, they have one more daily ritual to look forward to. All the 2-4 year olds are allowed to play on the famous Nyaru Menteng lawn for an hour before bed-time. They get to have a drink of milk and a snack and play on the climbing equipment and get all their naughtiness out of their systems before they are put to bed in their sleeping quarters. Some of the Forest SCHOOL CHARACTERS Sura is 4 years old. She is missing the tips of three fingers.
We have access to 4 years of footage since she arrived. Sura broke her arm recently after falling from a tree, but she’s doing well now. She’s shy, and observes and assesses everything.
She has a fascinating thinking face. SURA © NHNZ commercial in confidence Obama was rescued the day Barack Obama won the election, but now the nickname O-barm has stuck instead. When he’s scared he puts his left hand under his right armpit. Also does this if he’s sulking. But he can be rough and throws his weight around. OBAMA SURA
Tomang; Tomang is 5 years old. He was confiscated a year ago from a zinc mining village where he was given ice cream treats once a fortnight. Apparently he got very angry when Nyaru Menteng wouldn’t give him ice cream, but soon settled down.
Tomang has been a fast learner at Forest School, despite arriving as a 4 year old, and having been a human pet all his life. He has lots of friends now. Beni: Beni is 3 years old. He is a little fatty with a mohawk, but was very skinny when he first arrived, so has made a big improvement. He graduated from Baby House earlier than most, and he’s already developing cheek pads and displaying dominant behavior. He demands lots of love and attention from the babysitters, and he’s very popular and friends with everyone in Group 1. He loves to splash in the water.
Himba: Himba is 5 or 6 years old. He had burns to 75% of his body when he arrived and is now completely recovered. We have access to photos and video of his past. Himba is very clever and doing well in forest school. He likes to grab at cameras. He’s in an older Group with no playground time. Cinta arrived at Nyaru Menteng on Valentine’s Day, and her name means ‘love’. She’s a real character. She’s agile, acrobatic and loves showing off. She’s friends with Obama, and very naughty. I saw one little spat where she got angry with her keeper and had a tantrum after being disciplined. Cinta uses a stick to get honey from the hole-log, but also just sucks her way along the length of the plank when she can’t be bothered using the stick.
She has a very fluffy, frizzy coat, and her hair is much wilder than her classmates’. She loves climbing and getting up high, and lands heavily when she jumps down. She likes body-slamming the ground and wrestling with her friends. A real tomboy.
CINTA © NHNZ commercial in confidence Mosa is 3 years. He was found in Kuwait, where he’d been smuggled along with 5 sun bear cubs who all died in transit. (Orangutans are a status pet for rich Kuwaitis). MOSA
Luti: Luti is a bit of loner, hangs out by the building instead of with the others on the playground lawn and likes the attention of the babysitter. Despite this, he’s not timid, and shows independence and dominance. Junior: Junior is 4 years old. Junior was found in a suitcase loaded in the cargo-hold of a Kuwait-bound jet, at Jakarta airport. Marios the vet brought him to Nyaru Menteng, in Feb 2016.
He uses human sign language which he was taught as a pet, and always hangs out on the ground. He’s not really into climbing trees, and he wants to be with the babysitter a lot. He still has a chance of being rehabilitated, but it’s going to take a lot of work.
Saharini: Saharini is bold and playful and independent, and often ventures away from the group to play on her own. Very attached to her babysitter. Named after a famous Indonesia singer. © NHNZ commercial in confidence MERYL Meryl is 5 years old. She’s a cutie, with long eyelashes. All the orangs in her group love her. She’s very compatible and makes friends with everyone. JUMBO Jumbo is 4 years old. He also has one years’ worth of archive video. He’s a naughty boy who often doesn’t do as he’s told – but is immensely cute.
ISLAND SCHOOL Island School is the equivalent of high school and college – the last stage of education where orangutans go to finally prepare for the chance of being released back into the wild.
Ages of the candidates range from 6-14 years – very much the human equivalent of teenagers and young adults. There are 5 river islands which usually hold around 50 potential graduates
Some of the ISLAND SCHOOL cHARACTERS Kase: Kase is 13 years old. She is missing a hand, but is a skilled climber despite her handicap, and very pretty. She’s been on Palas Island since 2014, could be up for wild release in 2019. Mama Edwan: Madam Edwan’s age is not known. She is missing her right arm from elbow down, but is a very skilled climber regardless. Mama Edwan escaped from the island (it’s not known how) and spent 6 months on the lam, only to reappear at the feeding platform one day in very good condition (which is unusual, because often the runaways are emaciated and malnourished when they reappear).
So she not only prospered on her own, but she voluntarily returned to Island School. Jupiter: Nine-year-old Jupiter is a sweet, calm and relaxed teenager who gets on well with everyone. She makes great nests, forages for wild foods and travels well in the canopy. This makes her a leading candidate to be released into the wild. But Jupiter has been at the centre almost her entire life and there is some doubt as to whether she is ready to leave all her friends behind. ALAN Eight-year-old Alan has been at Nyaru Menteng since he was two and is almost ready to graduate. He is a born leader and a skilled nest builder...or maybe obsessive is a better description! Alan spends hours breaking the branches into different sizes and will meticulously lay them out into a nest.
Once he has made the perfect nest, he will mess the branches up and start again in a new area. Despite his OCD tendencies the other inhabitants of the island school look up to Alan.
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POTENTIAL EPISODE IDEAS EPISODE ONE: A baby orangutan is rescued from an Indonesian street Market. It’s a terrifying truck ride back to Nyaru Mentang but it marks the beginning of a new life for this tiny ball of red hair. At the centre the baby is calmed and then tested for disease (most of the orangutans that have been with people come with a variety of problems). He has a nasty wound on his head that the vet cleans and dresses. The baby is scared but the carers win him over with fruit treats. They name him Luca. After a short quarantine he is moved to the Nursery where other infant orangs are cared for around the clock by surrogate human mothers.
Two-year-old Noni is being introduced to the Baby School. It’s her first experience with other orangutans and she is not sure what to make of them. Some of the other orangutans try to play with her but she refuses to let go of his carer’s hand.
Peanut steals some underwear off the clothesline and tries to wear it as a hat. Noni watches quietly and then approaches Peanut bravely. Peanut generously offers his new friend a pair of knickers to put on her head, which she does. At Forest School we meet the mischievous “Bandit Boys”, a group of young male orangutans whose bond began at the nursery. Obama one of the Bandit Boys, concentrates his efforts on gaining Cinta’s affections when all she wants to do is join the gang.. Over at Island School, Jupiter, a senior pupil, watches a boat pull up. Five young orangutans are arriving. New blood! Over the next few years they will hone their survival skills and eventually graduate to the wild.
But that day is a long way off, for now they just try to fit in. NOTE: These characters are all based on observations and research gained from a recent trip to Nyaru Menteng. The individuals we feature in ORANGUTAN JUNGLE SCHOOL will however be selected at the outset of the field shoots based on our filming schedule, available individuals and the advice of their custodians. By choosing characters at different ages we will have a combination of cute and cuddly youngsters and older more independent individuals, each with a distinct personality and commanding on screen presence and a wide range of different lessons to be learned.
All the storylines in the following episodes outlines are also based on true stories and are very much the sort of events we expect to make up the narratives. © NHNZ commercial in confidence
EPISODE TWO : A baby orangutan is brought to the centre. When the vets try to check her over she just sits on the table hugging herself. This is called self-comforting and is a sign that the young orangutan has been seriously traumatized. They call her Lucinda and take her to Nursery School to meet the other infants. These orangutan infants have all experienced tragic beginnings to their lives. Many of the infants watched their mothers killed by hunters before being taken and sold on a thriving black market as pets. Others were separated from their mothers when their forest homes were cleared for palm plantations.
Lucinda meets little Luca who arrived just a week earlier. The two of them bond immediately and the results of this friendship are apparent also very quickly as both grow in confidence. At Forest School classes are in full swing. Today it’s all about climbing and teaching the young orangutans to avoid snakes. As per usual Junior is clinging onto his baby-sitter and not paying attention and Saharini has wandered off on her own. She finds herself surrounded by angry macaques and quickly flees back to class. In Baby School Noni’s friendship with Peanut means she is gaining confidence, but also learning mischief.
Peanut is turning into a ‘star athlete’ with his tree climbing and so Noni’s tree climbing skills accelerate possibly beyond her ability! Things are not as happy at the Island School. An older male from a neighbouring island has waded across the river at its lowest level during the dry season (he also made a bridge from a fallen tree) and is lurking around group. His presence is causing concern for the young teenagers, especially the new arrivals.
One of the younger males, Chen Chen, becomes anxious and asserts his dominance by brutally attacking Jupiter. Alan, a senior on the island, screams at Chen Chen and tries to comfort Jupiter but she flees deep into the forest and doesn’t come back for dinner. Has Chen Chen’s beating caused her to isolate herself from the class and potentially go missing? EPISODE THREE: The wet season has arrived and mosquitoes are everywhere. Floods transform the Island School, confronting the young teenagers with dangers never experienced in Forest School.
While Alan entertains himself with a makeshift toy by the river’s edge, the forest-wise Mama Edwan knows this isn’t a place to linger as flood waters rise and crocodiles lurk.
Jupiter is still missing. In the nursery friends Luca and Lucinda play with a large bucket of water on the grass. Orangutans are highly intelligent and have the ability to reason... and manipulate their mothers and carers! Infant orangutans will sometimes whinge and whine just like human kids. Their favorite food is fruit which makes up 60% of their diet and Luca and Lucinda are introduced to a wide variety of fruits - mostly at scheduled meal times - but like all human mothers their carers sometimes give in to their whining and provide treats. Forest School is extra noisy today. Tomang tries to get all the girls’ attention although no one is taking him seriously.
The feisty Cinta becomes jealous and makes her feelings well known to everyone within a hundred mile radius. Cha Cha ignores vital lessons she’s learned and lets her curiosity lead her into a dangerous playdate with a snake.
At the Baby School Peanut is holding centre stage as usual, along with Noni who is becoming a bit of a socialite. As the babies invent a new game which looks very much like hide and seek, word comes through from the technicians who watch over Island School that Jupiter is back! She appears healthy, with no injuries. How did she survive? EPISODE FOUR: The rainy season continues relentlessly and the inexperienced orangutans who just arrived to Island School have to learn rapidly how to escape the flooding. Many are spending more time in the trees which is what they should be doing, while others forget crucial lessons already learned.
Jupiter takes to the water and in deep puddles she demonstrates that she has learned to catch catfish with her hands. This could be how she survived when she fled, and now this may be an entirely new food source for the entire Island School class.
At Nursery School Lucinda is learning to drink milk from a cup for the first time... she is making © NHNZ commercial in confidence
a huge mess and doesn’t seem to have worked out yet that the milk in the cup is the same as the milk she has been receiving by bottle for the last few months... but she’s enjoying every minute of the new experience. Her constant companion, Luca is not there to share the fun though. Luca is in the clinic after developing a raging fever in the middle of the night. Wrapped in a blanket and shivering violently, he looks as lost as he did when he first arrived at Nyaru Menteng.
The vets aren’t positive yet what the problem is but they suspect malaria.
In Baby School Noni refuses to play and is obviously lethargic. There is concern she may also be ill so they take her to the clinic for a check-up. Without his buddy Peanut takes to the top of the trees and refuses to come down even when the wheelbarrow bus arrives to take him home.. At Forest School Meryl is alone and appears depressed after a run-in with one of the bullying Bandit Boys. Cinta comforts her by hugging her and then show her a new trick she’s learned – rolling leaves and blowing through them. This cheers Meryl up and soon the two little females are happily blowing into their leaves.
EPISODE FIVE: It’s confirmed that Luca does has malaria. He is in grave danger and unable to take fluids, the vet places him on an IV drip. His breath is becoming irregular as he fights for his life. He’s in intensive care for 24 hours – but miraculously he makes it through the long day and night. He spends his night at the vet’s house and is showered with love and attention. Back at the nursery Lucinda is missing him desperately and has started to self-comfort again. Her carers spend a lot of time trying to distract her and eventually it works. Within a few days Lucinda is back to her usually curious self.
In Forest School today Junior is using the sign language he learned as a family pet to try and get more milk from his babysitter. She knows his conniving ways however and ignores him. Meanwhile Himba has been watching closely and appears to make some of the signs himself showing how quickly these orangutans can learn from each other.
At Baby School Noni has recovered from what was luckily just a stomach bug and is now eating everything in sight...the other toddlers join in and it ends in a hilarious food fight. At the Island School, a couple more of the powerful males from a neighbouring island have figured out the electric fence bordering Palas and Kaja Islands is not working and they are looking for some mischief. How will the young community defend themselves? Meanwhile, Alan takes drastic action when a flash flood prevents him from reaching his feeding platform. Will his ground-breaking behaviour cost him his life? EPISODE SIX: The electric fence around Island School is operational again and there is now a sense of calm.
Jupiter becomes a role model as the group learns to imitate her effective method of foraging for food in the flood waters. At Forest School the students are learning nest building. Cha Cha is losing patience with Cinta who is stealing her branches and Meryl’s nest keeps collapsing under her. For once the mischievous ‘Bandit Boys’ including Obama are outperforming everyone. At Nursery School Lucinda masters the art of drinking milk from a cup Her little arms and legs are growing strong and she can now swing along a small tree branch unaided. She is making friends with many of the other infants and showing signs of being a future ‘alpha’ female.
Over in Baby School there’s a party going on and during the celebrations Peanut crawls over to one of the trees in the playground, climbs to the very top and starts vocalizing loudly... It’s clear to everyone he’s saying, “look at me, I am King”... Noni takes another bite of papaya cake and gives a toothy grin.
After a month of round the clock care Luca is well enough to return to the Nursery. When Lucinda sees him for the first time in over a month she stands up on her tiny back legs and starts toddling toward him. This is the first time Lucinda has done this and the significance is not lost on her babysitter. But for now it’s all about Luca who is welcomed back to the midway house with kiss-squeaks, hugs and sharing of milk. © NHNZ commercial in confidence
ORANGUTAN JUNGLE SCHOOL REAL DRAMA . REAL CHARACTERS . REAL STAKES