Ever wondered how Ramon came to be the handsome male orangutan he is today? Well, wonder no more...
The early years
The loveable Ramon, who is a Bornean Orangutan, was born on Friday 20th November 1998 at Leningrad Zoo in St Petersburg, the same day the first module of the International Space Station was launched.
His mother Monika was reportedly rescued and taken to the zoo from the illegal ape trade, where she had spent the majority of her life on her own.
As a result, she had never observed a family group or learned how to be a mother and, although she was affectionate to young Ramon, she could not work out how to feed him.
His father Rabu, who was born in Amsterdam in 1989, showed signs of being a good father, but as Monika was not able to properly care for Ramon the youngster was bottle fed and hand reared by keepers at Leningrad.
In a bid to teach Monika and Rabu how to be parents innovate zoo staff showed them videos of a natural ape family on a TV that was donated by Samsung.
The two grew very fond of the television to the point where Rabu totally ignored Monika while he watched American soap operas and Russian gameshows, so TV time was reduced!
Other methods were used to teach the two how to care for Ramon, but they never quite got the hang of it.
As a result Ramon had a lot of human interaction and one of his favourite past times was painting. Here is a video showing how keepers worked with Ramon and his parents during his time at Leningrad Zoo.
A boy in Blackpool
Ramon arrived in Blackpool in 2003, a move that was recommended by the International Studbook Keeper, who manages the breeding programme for the species.
He joined an already established group of three females and one male, which consisted of Beau the alpha, Vicky and her two daughters Cherie and Summer.
When Beau passed away in 2007 it was expected that Ramon would take up the position as head of the group, but the eldest female had other ideas.
Vicky, who was born in Blackpool in 1984, was seen as the dominant and, as Ramon didn’t have a lot of male role models, he didn’t realise he was supposed to be in charge!
His quiet demeanour and shy character meant the group dynamics remained that way for the next ten years, and he showed no sign of developing his cheek pads or wanting to mate with any of the girls.
Learning the ropes
In 2013 the group were moved to another zoo to allow a £1million refurbishment to take place at their Blackpool home.
During his time away Ramon watched other males and females interact and it is safe to say he left a boy and returned a man, with new found confidence and the desire to become the dominant male.
Not long after his return Ramon began to grow his cheek pads, or flanges, which indicated an increase in testosterone levels and a readiness to mate. He has shown a real interest in the females, in particular, Summer, and keepers are hopeful that Ramon will become a father in the non too distant future.
It isn’t just the orangutan ladies that he has an eye for, as he is also very fond of humans! He has been pictured countless times kissing girls through the glass of his new home and spends many a happy hour sat waiting to be noticed!
Luke Minns, Head Keeper at Blackpool Zoo, who has watched Ramon grow from boy to man said: “Ramon has always been a firm favourite here at Blackpool Zoo amongst visitors and staff. He has such a unique story and it is wonderful to see the transformation in him, he looks all grown up now. He has been displaying behaviours typical with wanting to mate and, when he isn’t eyeing up female human beings through the glass, he is chasing his girls around Orangutan Outlook. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we will be welcoming some new additions to the family in the coming years. From a tiny little ball of fur wearing a nappy to a fully grown male with impressive cheek pads, Ramon certainly is the man about town these days!”
Bornean Orangutans are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Like other great apes, orangutans are highly intelligent, displaying advanced tool use and distinct cultural patterns in the wild. Orangutans share approximately 97 per cent of their DNA with humans.
The species is endemic to the island of Borneo, where it lives in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as three Indonesian Provinces of Kalimantan.
Orangutan Awareness Week
Orangutan Awareness Week is an initiative run by The Orangutan Foundation, which is a UK registered charity working to conserve the threatened orangutan and its globally important habitat, the tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Since its foundation in 1990, The Orangutan Foundation has developed a diverse range of programmes. Key stakeholders, who include local communities, grassroots NGO’s local business and regional government, are at the heart of the Foundation’s work.
Throughout the week we'll be highlighting the life stories of each of our four resident orangutans, so check back throughout the week to learn a bit more about Vicky, Cherie and Summer.
We'll also be auctioning unique works of art hand crafted by Ramon himself to raise money for charity.
Ramon, who is 17, has produced a series of paintings after picking up the skill as a youngster while being hand-reared by keepers at Leningrad Zoo in St Petersburg.
All funds raised will be donated to the The Orangutan Foundation and is intended to support those helping orangutans whose natural habitat has been devastated as a result of the raging forest fires in Indonesia.
The auction will take place on our Facebook pages throughout Orangutan Awareness Week - click here for more