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
Along the way they endure all the
embarrassments, tears, tantrums and
teenage crushes that come with growing
up orangutan.

                                             © NHNZ commercial in confidence
The Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue
Center in Borneo, Indonesia, is the largest
orang-utan rehabilitation centre in the world.    JUNGLE SCHOOL
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.

                                                           © 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

                                   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.

© NHNZ commercial in confidence
Some of the nursery
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

Luca: Six-month-old Luca is a little male who
was rescued from a man who claimed he had
                                                  Luca and Lucinda drew courage from each other
‘found’ the infant in the jungle. He picked up
                                                  and quickly became the very best of friends. Their
the baby, and in doing so, apparently caused
                                                  confidence and curiosity are growing every day and the
a gaping wound on the infants head with his
                                                  keepers have high hopes for these gusty little fighters.

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.

                                                                     © NHNZ commercial in confidence
FOREST SCHOOL                                         Some of the Forest SCHOOL
Forest School ranges from the equivalent of           CHARACTERS
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                                          SURA   Sura is 4 years old. She is missing
much mischief as their babysitters can tolerate.                                             the tips of three fingers. We have
Hidden within the ‘play’ however are valuable                                                access to 4 years of footage since
lessons for survival.                                                                        she arrived. Sura broke her arm
                                                                                             recently after falling from a tree, but
They are divided into ‘classes” based on age, size                                           she’s doing well now. She’s shy, and
and ability. They practise their climbing skills                                             observes and assesses everything.
and this is often the stage where those who were                                             She has a fascinating thinking face.
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            Obama was rescued the
they return from spending all day in the forest,      day Barack Obama won
they have one more daily ritual to look forward to.   the election, but now
All the 2-4 year olds are allowed to play on the      the nickname O-barm
famous Nyaru Menteng lawn for an hour before          has stuck instead.
bed-time. They get to have a drink of milk and a      When he’s scared he
snack and play on the climbing equipment and get      puts his left hand under
all their naughtiness out of their systems before     his right armpit. Also
they are put to bed in their sleeping quarters.       does this if he’s sulking.
                                                      But he can be rough
                                                      and throws his weight
                                                      around.                      OBAMA
                                                                                             © NHNZ commercial in confidence
Mosa is 3 years. He was found in Kuwait, where he’d been
Tomang; Tomang is 5 years old. He was
                                                                                     smuggled along with 5 sun bear cubs who all died in transit.
confiscated a year ago from a zinc mining
village where he was given ice cream treats                             MOSA         (Orangutans are a status pet for rich Kuwaitis).

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
                                                                                                            Cinta arrived at Nyaru Menteng
most, and he’s already developing cheek
                                                                                                            on Valentine’s Day, and her name
pads and displaying dominant behavior. He                                                                   means ‘love’. She’s a real character.
demands lots of love and attention from the                                                                 She’s agile, acrobatic and loves
babysitters, and he’s very popular and friends                                                              showing off. She’s friends with
                                                                                                            Obama, and very naughty. I saw
with everyone in Group 1. He loves to splash                                           CINTA                one little spat where she got angry
in the water.
                                                                                                            with her keeper and had a tantrum
                                                                                                            after being disciplined. Cinta uses
Himba: Himba is 5 or 6 years old. He had
                                                                                                            a stick to get honey from the
burns to 75% of his body when he arrived and                                                                hole-log, but also just sucks her
is now completely recovered. We have access                                                                 way along the length of the plank
to photos and video of his past. Himba is very                                                              when she can’t be bothered using
clever and doing well in forest school. He likes                                                            the stick. She has a very fluffy,
                                                                                                            frizzy coat, and her hair is much
to grab at cameras. He’s in an older Group                                                                  wilder than her classmates’. She
with no playground time.                                                                                    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.

                                                   © NHNZ commercial in confidence
Luti: Luti is a bit of loner, hangs out by the
building instead of with the others on the         Jumbo is 4 years
playground lawn and likes the attention of the     old. He also has
babysitter. Despite this, he’s not timid, and      one years’ worth
shows independence and dominance.                  of archive video.
                                                   He’s a naughty
Junior: Junior is 4 years old. Junior was found    boy who often        JUMBO
in a suitcase loaded in the cargo-hold of a
                                                   doesn’t do as
Kuwait-bound jet, at Jakarta airport. Marios
                                                   he’s told – but is
the vet brought him to Nyaru Menteng, in
                                                   immensely cute.
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

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.


                                                                        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
© NHNZ commercial in confidence
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
ISLAND SCHOOL   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
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,                                                                ALAN
calm and relaxed teenager who gets on
well with everyone. She makes great nests,       Eight-year-old Alan has been at Nyaru Menteng since he was two and is almost ready
forages for wild foods and travels well in the   to graduate. He is a born leader and a skilled nest builder...or maybe obsessive is a
canopy. This makes her a leading candidate       better description! Alan spends hours breaking the branches into different sizes and
to be released into the wild. But Jupiter has    will meticulously lay them out into a nest. Once he has made the perfect nest, he will
been at the centre almost her entire life and    mess the branches up and start again in a new area. Despite his OCD tendencies the
there is some doubt as to whether she is         other inhabitants of the island school look up to Alan.
ready to leave all her friends behind.

© NHNZ commercial in confidence
                                                                                            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.

    NOTE: These characters are all based on observations and research gained from           At Forest School we meet the mischievous
    a recent trip to Nyaru Menteng. The individuals we feature in ORANGUTAN                 “Bandit Boys”, a group of young male orangutans
    JUNGLE SCHOOL will however be selected at the outset of the field shoots based          whose bond began at the nursery. Obama one
    on our filming schedule, available individuals and the advice of their custodians. By   of the Bandit Boys, concentrates his efforts on
                                                                                            gaining Cinta’s affections when all she wants to do
    choosing characters at different ages we will have a combination of cute and cuddly
                                                                                            is join the gang..
    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           Over at Island School, Jupiter, a senior pupil,
    learned. All the storylines in the following episodes outlines are also based on true   watches a boat pull up. Five young orangutans
    stories and are very much the sort of events we expect to make up the narratives.       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.
© NHNZ commercial in confidence
EPISODE TWO : A baby orangutan is brought            across the river at its lowest level during the      all human mothers their carers sometimes give in
to the centre. When the vets try to check her        dry season (he also made a bridge from a fallen      to their whining and provide treats.
over she just sits on the table hugging herself.     tree) and is lurking around group. His presence
This is called self-comforting and is a sign         is causing concern for the young teenagers,          Forest School is extra noisy today. Tomang tries
that the young orangutan has been seriously          especially the new arrivals.                         to get all the girls’ attention although no one is
traumatized. They call her Lucinda and take her to                                                        taking him seriously. The feisty Cinta becomes
Nursery School to meet the other infants. These      One of the younger males, Chen Chen, becomes         jealous and makes her feelings well known to
orangutan infants have all experienced tragic        anxious and asserts his dominance by brutally        everyone within a hundred mile radius. Cha Cha
beginnings to their lives. Many of the infants       attacking Jupiter. Alan, a senior on the island,     ignores vital lessons she’s learned and lets her
watched their mothers killed by hunters before       screams at Chen Chen and tries to comfort            curiosity lead her into a dangerous playdate with
being taken and sold on a thriving black market as   Jupiter but she flees deep into the forest and       a snake.
pets. Others were separated from their mothers       doesn’t come back for dinner. Has Chen Chen’s
                                                     beating caused her to isolate herself from the       At the Baby School Peanut is holding centre
when their forest homes were cleared for palm                                                             stage as usual, along with Noni who is becoming
plantations.                                         class and potentially go missing?
                                                                                                          a bit of a socialite. As the babies invent a new
Lucinda meets little Luca who arrived just a week    EPISODE THREE: The wet season has arrived            game which looks very much like hide and seek,
earlier. The two of them bond immediately and        and mosquitoes are everywhere. Floods transform      word comes through from the technicians who
the results of this friendship are apparent also     the Island School, confronting the young             watch over Island School that Jupiter is back! She
very quickly as both grow in confidence.             teenagers with dangers never experienced in          appears healthy, with no injuries. How did she
                                                     Forest School.                                       survive?
At Forest School classes are in full swing. Today
it’s all about climbing and teaching the young       While Alan entertains himself with a makeshift       EPISODE FOUR: The rainy season continues
orangutans to avoid snakes. As per usual Junior      toy by the river’s edge, the forest-wise Mama        relentlessly and the inexperienced orangutans
is clinging onto his baby-sitter and not paying      Edwan knows this isn’t a place to linger as flood    who just arrived to Island School have to learn
attention and Saharini has wandered off on her       waters rise and crocodiles lurk. Jupiter is still    rapidly how to escape the flooding. Many are
own. She finds herself surrounded by angry           missing.                                             spending more time in the trees which is what
macaques and quickly flees back to class.                                                                 they should be doing, while others forget crucial
                                                     In the nursery friends Luca and Lucinda play with    lessons already learned. Jupiter takes to the water
In Baby School Noni’s friendship with Peanut         a large bucket of water on the grass. Orangutans     and in deep puddles she demonstrates that she
means she is gaining confidence, but also learning   are highly intelligent and have the ability to       has learned to catch catfish with her hands. This
mischief. Peanut is turning into a ‘star athlete’    reason… and manipulate their mothers and carers!     could be how she survived when she fled, and now
with his tree climbing and so Noni’s tree climbing   Infant orangutans will sometimes whinge and          this may be an entirely new food source for the
skills accelerate possibly beyond her ability!       whine just like human kids. Their favorite food is   entire Island School class.
                                                     fruit which makes up 60% of their diet and Luca
Things are not as happy at the Island School. An     and Lucinda are introduced to a wide variety of      At Nursery School Lucinda is learning to drink
older male from a neighbouring island has waded      fruits - mostly at scheduled meal times - but like   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             Back at the nursery Lucinda is missing him           At Forest School the students are learning
out yet that the milk in the cup is the same as the     desperately and has started to self-comfort again.   nest building. Cha Cha is losing patience with
milk she has been receiving by bottle for the last      Her carers spend a lot of time trying to distract    Cinta who is stealing her branches and Meryl’s
few months… but she’s enjoying every minute of          her and eventually it works. Within a few days       nest keeps collapsing under her. For once the
the new experience. Her constant companion,             Lucinda is back to her usually curious self.         mischievous ‘Bandit Boys’ including Obama are
Luca is not there to share the fun though. Luca                                                              outperforming everyone.
is in the clinic after developing a raging fever in     In Forest School today Junior is using the sign
the middle of the night. Wrapped in a blanket and       language he learned as a family pet to try and       At Nursery School Lucinda masters the art of
shivering violently, he looks as lost as he did when    get more milk from his babysitter. She knows         drinking milk from a cup Her little arms and legs
he first arrived at Nyaru Menteng. The vets aren’t      his conniving ways however and ignores him.          are growing strong and she can now swing along a
positive yet what the problem is but they suspect       Meanwhile Himba has been watching closely            small tree branch unaided. She is making friends
malaria.                                                and appears to make some of the signs himself        with many of the other infants and showing signs
                                                        showing how quickly these orangutans can learn       of being a future ‘alpha’ female. Over in Baby
In Baby School Noni refuses to play and is              from each other.                                     School there’s a party going on and during the
obviously lethargic. There is concern she may also                                                           celebrations Peanut crawls over to one of the
be ill so they take her to the clinic for a check-up.   At Baby School Noni has recovered from what          trees in the playground, climbs to the very top
Without his buddy Peanut takes to the top of the        was luckily just a stomach bug and is now eating     and starts vocalizing loudly… It’s clear to everyone
trees and refuses to come down even when the            everything in sight…the other toddlers join in and   he’s saying, “look at me, I am King”… Noni takes
wheelbarrow bus arrives to take him home..              it ends in a hilarious food fight.                   another bite of papaya cake and gives a toothy
                                                        At the Island School, a couple more of the           grin.
At Forest School Meryl is alone and appears
depressed after a run-in with one of the bullying       powerful males from a neighbouring island have       After a month of round the clock care Luca is well
Bandit Boys. Cinta comforts her by hugging              figured out the electric fence bordering Palas       enough to return to the Nursery. When Lucinda
her and then show her a new trick she’s learned         and Kaja Islands is not working and they are         sees him for the first time in over a month she
– rolling leaves and blowing through them. This         looking for some mischief. How will the young        stands up on her tiny back legs and starts toddling
cheers Meryl up and soon the two little females         community defend themselves? Meanwhile, Alan         toward him.
are happily blowing into their leaves.                  takes drastic action when a flash flood prevents
                                                        him from reaching his feeding platform. Will his     This is the first time Lucinda has done this and
EPISODE FIVE: It’s confirmed that Luca does             ground-breaking behaviour cost him his life?         the significance is not lost on her babysitter. But
has malaria. He is in grave danger and unable to                                                             for now it’s all about Luca who is welcomed back
take fluids, the vet places him on an IV drip. His      EPISODE SIX: The electric fence around Island        to the midway house with kiss-squeaks, hugs and
breath is becoming irregular as he fights for his       School is operational again and there is now a       sharing of milk.
life. He’s in intensive care for 24 hours – but         sense of calm.
miraculously he makes it through the long day           Jupiter becomes a role model as the group learns
and night. He spends his night at the vet’s house       to imitate her effective method of foraging for
and is showered with love and attention.                food in the flood waters.
                                                                                                             © NHNZ commercial in confidence
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