What my behind the scenes tour of the orangutans taught me about habits

Yesterday my family and I were fortunate to get a behind the scenes tour of the orangutans exhibit at Zoo Atlanta. Basically, we got to walk a narrow, elevated path in between the gorilla exhibit and the orangutan exhibit with a zookeeper. From the path, we were able to look over into the exhibit and see up close how the orangutans live. On the tour the zookeeper told us all about the orangutans, everything from their names, to how they were raised, to how the live, etc.

There was one orangutan that he told us about that had come to Zoo Atlanta to live with other orangutans after being raised elsewhere. Chantek had been raised as a human and taught to speak basic sign language until he grew out of that program and found a new home at Zoo Atlanta.

What struck me as interesting was what the keeper said about Chantek’s bedtime habits. He told us that while all of the other orangutans will climb into hammocks to sleep each night, Chantek will sign to ask for his blanket (remember he was raised as a human and must have had a blanky like most babies do). Then he will lay down with his blanket to sleep.

In hearing that story, it occurred to me that some comforts we seek and habits we have come from the core of who we are and how we were raised. These habits may be changeable, but will require more work. When building new habits or breaking bad ones, it’s important to recognize how ingrained that behavior is so that you can assess how difficult it will be to change.

You can read more about Chantek the orangutan here.

Here are a few of the photos that I took on the tour: