J.J. and Chelsea, two baby Bornean orangutans at Hogle Zoo, aren't a lot different in some ways from many youngsters in Utah house-holds.
They like watching television, and their favorite programs seem to include the morning cartoons.Both clad in diapers to risk spreading infection, the little orangutans can be seen enjoying action-packed programs on a color TV inside their exhibit.
Chelsea, born June 6 at San Diego Zoo and now weighing about 9 pounds, came to Hogle Zoo in late August on loan from the California zoo.
Her keeper there recommended that zookeepers here set up a color TV for her as a source of entertainment and as a way to help the animals adjust to being being around humans. The TV was donated by Price Savers wholesale warehouse.
"We want the TV to provide sight, sound and examples of human behavior. This gives the animals a chance to get used to and not be frightened by such action. During the day they are usually exposed to soap operas or other daytime programs," said Bob Pratt, primate supervisor at Hogle Zoo.
Chelsea and J.J., a male that weighs 15 pounds, were taken from their mothers for different reasons. J.J.'s mother died six months after birth at Hogle Zoo, and Chelsea was rejected by her mother soon after birth.
"Both orangs enjoy close contact and playtime with zookeepers. We intentionally keep that contact to a minimum so they won't bond to humans, but rather identify with each other. If Chelsea bonds with a human being, the chances of her breeding with another orangutan are less likely," Pratt said.
Chelsea will not be able to give birth until she is at least 8 to 10 years old.
Zookeepers have found that being a substitute mom is not all that easy, especially when minimal handling involves only bottle feedings and changing diapers.
Chelsea and J.J. wear diapers specifically for sanitary reasons. Pratt said it is important that their display area is kept clean to reduce the chance of infection.
"The choice of using diapers was not to give the idea that we are treating them like humans, but to keep them clean. It is a functional way to deal with their high susceptibility to infection and disease. As the two orangs get older, I'm sure they won't tolerate diapers and will be tearing them up," Pratt said.
Pratt, who lives in Sandy, has worked at Hogle Zoo for more than 26 years, says he enjoys working with orangutans and other apes at the zoo.
"Each animal has its own personality. The requirements for taking care of the animals change from day to day. I have so much fun at the zoo that I would would probably swing from the chandeliers at home if we had some," Pratt said with a smile.