Orangutan Island

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Orangutan Island
GenreNature, documentary, drama
Created byJudith Curran
Narrated byRodd Houston
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes26
Executive producer(s)Martha Ripp
Producer(s)Judith Curran
Production location(s)Borneo
CinematographySeason 2 - Alex Hubert
Running time30 minutes
Original networkAnimal Planet
Original releaseNovember 2, 2007 (2007-11-02) –
March 17, 2009 (2009-03-17)
External links

Orangutan Island is an American documentary television series, in the style of the successful series Meerkat Manor, that blends more traditional documentary filming with dramatic narration.[1] The series was produced by NHNZ with creator Judith Curran also acting as the series producer. Animal Planet's Martha Ripp is the executive producer of the series, and Lone Drøscher Nielsen of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, the founder, and manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project, regularly appears with the orangutans in the show. The series premiered on Animal Planet on November 2, 2007, with new episodes airing Friday nights.[2] A second season began airing in November 2008.

The show focuses on a group of orphaned orangutans at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation Center that are raised to go against their normally independent nature and instead cooperate and live together in a society so they can be left to live wild on their protected island.[3]

A follow-up series titled Orangutan Jungle School began airing on More 4 in 2018.


  • Alibaba is a resourceful orangutan who hunts other orangutans. After studying the Teknisi and learning that they use water bottles as traps, Alibaba has become adept at raiding the other orangutans hideouts to take the flesh for himself.
  • The Bandit Boys are a group of five- and six-year-old males that formed in baby school. Known for being mischief makers, the group likes to engage in food fights and wrestling matches.
    • Donald, "the Apprentice," is a six-year-old male who came to Nyaru Menteng with Daisy. Though they were close in forest school, Donald becomes the sidekick of the larger Chen Chen, enabling him to live a mostly worry-free life. During the series, he falls victim to an unknown illness but is able to recover. In the season premiere of Season 2, Donald died of blood poisoning. Orangutan Outreach, an affiliate of the rescue group Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation, also reported that Donald had died.[4]
    • Mercury is one of the victims of the mysterious illness. The 'Mysterious Illness' has been defined as Ebola.
    • Milo is the one who caused Bonita's retreat to the comforting Papau.
    • Rocky fights with Milo for dominance when Hamlet leaves.
    • Saturnus is the island's smallest male and is constantly seeking attention and discovering ways to turn anything into a toy. His love of pranks earns him the nickname of "Clown."
    • Togar is one of the original bandit boys, but after falling victim to the strange illness that struck the island, his role in the society is shaken. When he returns to the island, he is hesitant and fearful but eventually finds his place again.
  • Barata is Oren's best friend.
  • Bertha is the island's largest female. She catches the eye of Saturnus, the island's smallest male.
  • Bonita is a five-and-a-half-year-old female who tends to be independent and something of a loner. When the Bandit Boys bully her, she quickly loses her confidence and runs away crying. Bonita's mother was killed by poachers wanting to sell Bonita as a pet, but she was rescued and taken to the Nyaru Menteng Rescue Center, where she entered baby school.
  • Bule is a Palas Island Male who even impressed Daisy when she first saw him. Hamlet has tried to psych him out. He is bigger than Hamlet but a real gentle orangutan.
  • Cha Cha is a six-year-old female who first came to the Nyaru Menteng Rescue Center when she was 18 months old. She viewed Lone Droscher Nielsen as her surrogate mother and was initially devastated at being separated from her. Her refusal to adapt to the island causes Nielsen to question whether Cha Cha can be an independent orangutan; however, Cha Cha soon bonds with the more boisterous Daisy and comes to accept her new home.
  • Chakra is the male invader from Palas Island who attempt to steal a bunch of bananas but is defeated by Mogok.
  • Chen Chen is an eight-year-old male who is missing his left eye because of an accident when he was a baby. Although Chen Chen is one of the largest and most dominant males on Orangutan Island, newcomer Hamlet has come to challenge his position. However, in episode six he and Hamlet cooperate in raiding a Teknisi supply boat. Later on, Chen Chen retires from being dominant male, and leaves the battle between Hamlet and Reno.
  • Chilli appears in episode 1 of season 2 alongside Pickle and Peanut.
  • Compost is a six-year-old female who came to Nyaru Menteng on August 29, 2003, still basically wild. She lost one of her ears after receiving an electrical shock. Compost, who is named after famed wildlife photographer Alain Compost, is nicknamed "The Photographer."
  • Daisy is a feisty and determined six-year-old female who takes no prisoners. Daisy came to forest school with Donald. When Donald starts bonding with Chen Chen, Daisy becomes something of a tomboy and shows that she can hold her own in an altercation. Her willingness to stand up to bullies earned her the nickname "Sheriff Daisy." Brave, determined, and sometimes rebellious, Daisy is one of the island's best foragers. Showing she can also be gentle, Daisy befriends the less confident Cha Cha.
  • Guy is a Palas Island male who mostly hangs out with Manisa.
  • Hamlet, called the "Intruder," is a 10-year-old male who escapes from the nearby Palas Island to make his home on Orangutan Island. In his first appearance on the show, he kidnaps Jasmine. However, despite this rude introduction, his five years of experience in the wild enables him to help the less experienced newcomers survive their first rainy season. Towards the end of season 1, Hamlet is deposed by Reno and then builds a relationship with Papau. Eventually Hamlet regains his position.
  • Hardi is a newborn baby who appears with his mother, Kiki, in season 2.
  • Hercules is a 20-year-old male. He is more aggressive than other adult orangutans on Orangutan Island. This Orangutan is not on Orangutan Island
  • Jasmine is a darker-colored, six-year-old female who is popular with the young males on the island, earning her the nickname of "Femme Fatale." Confident and self-sufficient, she rarely gets time away from her admirers.
  • Jordan is a six-year-old who came to Nyaru Menteng after being rescued from an illegal stage show, where he was trained to wrestle with other orangutans. Having been stolen from his mother while still a baby, he has little experience interacting with other orangutans and enters the island at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Jordan once attacked alpha male Hamlet with a bottle, but Hamlet seemed to be understanding and didn't punish him severely. Owing to a deviated septum, Jordan has a constantly running nose. In episode 4, he attempted to drink the engine oil out of a bottle he has found, which would have killed him had the Teknisi not spotted him in time.
  • Jupiter is a female who takes a liking to water. She discovers a new food source, fish.
  • Kacio is a six-year-old female who shows that Chen Chen has a soft side by playing with him on the platform in episode 3. She is also a friend of Yeyen and Nadi.
  • Kiki is a 15-year-old female. Kiki was kept as a pet in a cage under a house, and she could not walk or climb when she was rescued—she rolled everywhere. She was released to Palas Island and now has become a regular on Orangutan Island.
  • Komo, a Palas Island male, could possibly take Chen Chen's position in the hierarchy.
  • Mac is a Palas Island male who visited Orangutan Island with Hamlet in Season 1. Something of a bully, he has tried to challenge Hamlet for dominance; he also makes Hamlet jealous.
  • Mangis was rescued when she was a toddler. Her nickname is "Spoiled Princess" because she is always lazy.
  • Manisa is a Palas Island female with looks similar to those of Sayla and Nor. Despite her large size, she is really a quiet and sweet orangutan.
  • Marly was introduced to Tati when Tati first came to Orangutan Island.
  • Mego is a Palas Island male. He came to Orangutan Island in season 2.
  • Mentos is a Palas Island female, part of the Palas Island Girl Gang, who is known for beating up Mangis and acting tough. She likes to assert her dominance whenever she can.
  • Mogok is a brave young male who challenges the much larger invader Chakra by stealing back the group's bananas. Earlier on in the season Mogok went missing, prompting Lone and the Teknisi to form a search party. Mogok is eventually found on the opposite side of the 100-acre (0.40 km2) island six days later, looking perfectly healthy. His six-day survival was a good sign for his fellow orangutans.
  • Mustafa is also one of the adults on Orangutan Island. He was released into Nyaru Menteng's new 10-acre (40,000 m2) forest.
  • Nadi was found in a small cage outside of a house suffering from severe malnourishment. Nadi hates boat rides after having been transported to Nyaru Menteng in a boat and has to be sedated during the boat trip to Palas 2. Hypervigilant, she is quick to sound the alarm at the first sign of potential danger. After a scuffle with Daisy, Nadi is bitten by a pit viper but recovers with the help of Nielsen.
  • Nor is a Palas Island female who wants to attack Mangis. She spies the Teknisi and the other Orangutan Island orangutans searching for Mangis.
  • Oren is Barata's best friend.
  • Oyoy was an independent male. After he went missing in episode 3, he was found dead, facedown in the river. Lone believes he fell out of a tree.
  • Papau at nine years of age is the oldest female on the island and is known for her maternal manner. She often cares for the shyer Bonita. Towards the end of season 1, she forms a bond with Hamlet.
  • Peanut is a two-year-old male orphan who appeared on episode 1 in season 2.
  • Pickle is Lone's roommate on episode 1 in season 2.
  • Randang is a female orangutan two to two and a half years old. When Bonita is sent to forest school to recover from an illness, Randang keeps climbing on Bonita's back as if she were her mother.
  • Reno is a six-year-old male who uses Hamlet's absence to challenge Chen Chen's dominance. He is strong, clever and a totally mean bully. He, along with Hamlet and Chen Chen, is one of the strongest on the island, and was the main antagonist of the Season 1 finale.
  • Ruby is a three-year-old female whose mother was killed by poachers. She is saved and sent to the Nyaru Menteng Rescue Center. On the first episode in season 2, she is bitten by a macaque.
  • Sayla is a Palas Island female, part of the Palas Island Girl Gang. She usually has mud on her face.
  • Suka is introduced to Tati when Tati first arrives at Nyaru Menteng.
  • Tati is a two-year-old female who was kept in a cage by a hunter for three weeks. When she came to Nyaru Menteng Rescue Center, she was a bit aggressive at first but later on calmed down and joins the forest school. Her first friends were Suka and Marly.
  • Ujung is a 12-year-old male and Hamlet's old friend from Palas Island, Also befriends Jordan.
  • Yeyen is the mate of Chen Chen and is known for her ability to walk upright in water.

Production details[edit]

Anne Russon, a psychologist who has conducted extensive research in primate intelligence is acting as a scientific adviser for the series. Lone Drøscher Nielsen is the founder and project manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue and Reintroduction Center and regularly appears in the show interacting with and caring for the orangutan orphans.


Season 1: 2007-2008[edit]

# Title Airdate
1"New Beginnings"November 2, 2007 (2007-11-02)
The new orangutans are introduced to their rescue center.
2"The Intruder"November 9, 2007 (2007-11-09)
Hamlet, an older, larger male from a neighboring island, comes to the island and attempts to kidnap Jasmine, although his attempts are foiled by the bandit boys, Saturnus, and Daisy.
3"Lost"November 16, 2007 (2007-11-16)
The wet season arrives and Oyoy and Mogok become independent. Mogok successfully survives 6 days alone, but Oyoy dies when he falls into the growing river.
4"Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost"November 30, 2007 (2007-11-30)
The orangutans drop much of their food into the growing river, and use the help of Hamlet to get it back. Jordan almost dies after opening and attempting to drink a bottle of engine oil, and Cha Cha has a close call with a snake.
5"Break Out"December 7, 2007 (2007-12-07)
Chen Chen, Cha Cha, and Daisy discover that the electric fence separating Orangutan Island, and neighboring Palas Island is not functioning properly, and two Palas Island males get across. They are rounded up by the Teknisi, but Cha Cha is missing.
6"Growing Pains"December 14, 2007 (2007-12-14)
All of the orangutans are inspected for the first time by Lone and their vet, Tim. Milo bullies Bonita, and Cha Cha is found all alone in the forest.
7"Orangutan 911"December 21, 2007 (2007-12-21)
Donald catches a mysterious disease that spreads throughout the island.
8"Eaten Alive"January 11, 2008 (2008-01-11)
An invisible menace is threatening Orangutan Island, and at the Nyaru Menteng Clinic veterinarians work around the clock to unravel the mystery behind Donald, Togar, Mercury and Bonita's illness. Back on the island, fears of an epidemic worsen when Bertha is found to have an abscess.
9"House of Cards"
January 18, 2008 (2008-01-18)
Jordan, the main outsider of the group, becomes more active with Chen Chen and seems to be good at climbing trees. Alibaba finds a jackfruit, and it is shared, but Daisy wants Nadi to share it with her, and doesn't let Nadi onto the platforms. Nadi is bitten by a pit viper.
10"River's Rewards"January 25, 2008 (2008-01-25)
Nadi is treated for a snakebite. She recovers and is sent back to the island. Alibaba raids the fish traps that the Teknisi set up, and earns a higher place in the group's social status.
11"Rumble in the Jungle"February 1, 2008 (2008-02-01)
Most of the orangutans sleep on the forest floor, but they are vulnerable to predators and it is not safe, so Lone tries to build a platform in the tree canopy, away from the ground, to encourage them to sleep in the trees.
12"Who Rules?"February 8, 2008 (2008-02-08)
Lone's risky plan to encourage the orphaned orangutans to spend more time in the treetops has a fatal flaw. But she isn't going to be discouraged and works on a new solution. At the same time, the island is simmering with tension over who will fill the leadership void until the unexpected return of Hamlet. But his reappearance doesn't immediately resolve the issue as another showdown begins.
13"Many Happy Returns"February 15, 2008 (2008-02-15)
For the anniversary of the island, Lone comes for a visit.

Season 2: 2008-2009[edit]

# Title Airdate
1"Cheating Extinction"February 24, 2008 (2008-02-24)
New orangutan orphans just arrived at Nyaru Menteng Rescue Center.
2"An Animal In Paradise"March 2, 2008 (2008-03-02)
It's been 18 months since Forest School class 103 arrived on the island, and 32 of the original 35 orangutans remain, life on the island is still unpredictable. In this episode, two travelers must put their lives at risk to help the orangutans, revealing the greatest surprise yet on Orangutan Island.
3"No Borders"March 9, 2008 (2008-03-09)
There are new arrivals on the island--mother Kiki and her nine-month-old son, Hardi, who came from bordering Palas Island. Although there is an electric fence dividing the two islands, Project Manager Lone Droscher-Nielson quickly realizes that it doesn’t work when Kiki and her son arrive unscathed.
4"Sink Or Swim"March 16, 2008 (2008-03-16)
The bold open border experiment continues, but will the weakest of the orphans end up paying too heavy a price? A wily Palas Island adventurer is already looking to settle an old score.
5"Fight Club"March 23, 2008 (2008-03-23)
Anarchy rules as a vicious battle erupts to fill the power vacuum left by Hamlet. The stakes are high as tenacious contender Reno vies for dominance, but now he must compete with the older, menacing Palas Island males.
6"Kindred Spirits"March 30, 2008 (2008-03-30)
There's calm since Hamlet's return, but it is mostly an uneasy peace between the Orangutan and Palas Island orangutans.
7"We Are Family"March 6, 2008 (2008-03-06)
Exhausted from her motherly duties with baby Hardi, Kiki will never get a break unless she decides to let the other females do the unthinkable – babysit! Meanwhile, vulnerable Mangis is put to the test.
8"Where There Is Smoke"March 13, 2008 (2008-03-13)
Reno's attempt to find his place in the society of Orangutan Island turns play into disaster, especially for Chen Chen. Meanwhile, Saturnus' naughty act sheds light on the current societal hierarchy.
9"Double Edged Sword"March 20, 2008 (2008-03-20)
Hamlet takes a walk on the wild side, which could compromise his entire future. Meanwhile, a plump Chen Chen returns from the clinic fully mended but with no one to greet him.
10"Teen Angst"March 28, 2008 (2008-03-28)
Lone wrestles with how to ensure Bonita's health without devastating the emotional health of her two-year-old foster daughter, Randang. Meanwhile, hormone-fueled Palas Island males go on a rampage, targeting mom Kiki.
11"Chain Reaction"March 4, 2009 (2009-03-04)
After an accident while play-fighting, Jordan faces amputation if an x-ray machine doesn't arrive in time. Later, Jupiter's attempt to become the feminine counterpart to Chen Chen's "demolition man" sets off a chain reaction with Bonita-the unintended and unsuspecting victim.
12"A Walk On The Wild Side"March 11, 2009 (2009-03-11)
Hamlet's dominance is suddenly in question when Lone learns that the vulnerable Bonita has left the island sanctuary after her run-in. It is a race against time to find Bonita before it is too late. The youngster is not mature enough to live in the wild alone and poachers are a constant threat.
13"Moving On"March 17, 2009 (2009-03-17)
Lone is negotiating with the government for a bigger island in order to alleviate overcrowding at Nyaru Menteng. The new island will force its inhabitants such as Cha Cha, Saturnus, Jordan, and Daisy to adapt to the wild and survive in rougher terrain.

Events since the end of the series[edit]

Lone Drøscher Nielsen was forced to leave Nyaru Menteng for a time due to health reasons but returned in late 2012. "Two years ago my doctor told me to move back to Europe. My health could not keep up with life in the rainforest anymore, and I got an infection which turned out to be life threatening. In the spring I finally received green light to return home to my wonderful red friends at Nyaru Menteng. Though at first only for a trial period to see if my health could keep up. Luckily my health kept up fine with my Borneo visit and my three weeks in the forest passed without problems."[5]

Releasing rehabilitated orangutans to their natural habitat is the ultimate goal of orangutan sanctuaries. A notable first for the "cast" of Orangutan Island occurred on February 15, 2013. Mogok became the first of the orangutans depicted in the series to be released to the wild as part of a group of five semi-wild and 15 rehabilitated orangutans who were transported from the Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program at Nyaru Menteng to pre-selected release points in Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest over a period of three days.[6] One day later, February 16, Alibaba became the second orangutan from the series to be released.[7]

After spending a few months in the wild, Mogok contracted a massive threadworm infection, and trackers found him very weak. He was evacuated back to Nyaru Menteng in late August 2013. Despite 24-hour veterinary treatment, he died on September 12, 2013. Ms. Nielsen admitted, "It is extremely sad to lose an orangutan that we worked so hard to rehabilitate and return to the wild, but we were always realistic from the start that not all of our orangutans would make it – even wild orangutans die in the forest to illness or injuries."[8]

To coincide with the 68th anniversary of Indonesia's independence, a group of 18 orangutans gained their independence so-to-speak by being released into Bukit Batikap Conservation Forest over two days, August 16–17, 2013. Among that group was Bule, who became the third "star" of Orangutan Island to be released back to the wild.[9]

At the end of November 2013, two more "stars" of Orangutan Island were released. Daisy became the "sheriff" of Butik Batikap Conservation Forest upon her release.[10] The following day, Bertha went to her new home in the forest.[11]

Sadly, some Orangutan Island "stars" have died since the series concluded before they could be released to the wild. According to the Facebook page of Lone Drøscher Nielsen, these orangutans have passed away:[12]

  • Cha Cha - died of blood poisoning in 2010.
  • Chen Chen - possibly injured in a fight with another orangutan and found dead in the water in 2010.
  • Jordan - died of unspecified causes in 2011.
  • Nadi - died of an unspecified illness in 2010.
  • Saturnus - died of blood poisoning in 2010.

See also[edit]


General – basic episode information
  • "Episode Guide: Orangutan Island". Animal Planet. Retrieved 2008-01-11.
  • "Episode Guide". Orangutan Island Press Materials. Discovery. Retrieved 2008-01-11.[permanent dead link]
General – basic orangutans in show

External links[edit]