Love the viral sunglasses wearing Orangutan TikTok? Meet the 3 residents at the Birmingham Zoo

Read Time 3 Minutes

Oliver Orangutan
Orangutan Oliver at the Birmingham Zoo. Photo by Dane Jorgenson via Birmingham Zoo

45 million views. 11 million likes.  That’s how many people have watched and liked the viral TikTok video of an Orangutan at an Indonesia zoo trying on a pair of sunglasses accidentally dropped in his habitat area. Haven’t seen it?

For giggles, here it is! 

@minorcrimes

So I’m down a pair of sunglasses but up a very good story #monke

♬ original sound – Lola Testu

Birmingham’s Three Orangutans

You don’t have to travel across the world to see these highly intelligent and demonstrative primates. There are three orangutans living right here in the Magic City.

We asked our good friends at the Birmingham Zoo — Danielle Williams, Zoological Manager of South America/Primates and Lori Perkins, the Zoo’s Deputy Director to tell us a little bit about our orange furry neighbors.

Q&A

Bham Now: Tell us about Oliver, Lipz and Nadira?

Danielle Williams: Oliver is our adult male and a longtime resident of the Birmingham Zoo. He moved here in 1987, and he is one of the oldest Sumatran orangutan males in the North American population at 41. 

Oliver
Orangutan Oliver at the Birmingham Zoo. Photo by Dane Jorgenson via Birmingham Zoo

Lipz, our adult female, is more reserved when out on habitat, but when the group comes off habitat, she is usually the first to initiate a wrestling match with her daughter. 

Lipz and Nadira
Lipz and baby Nadira at the Birmingham Zoo. Photo via Birmingham Zoo

Nadira is the youngest at 9, and is fun to watch grow up. She is sometimes very hesitant of things that don’t seem to faze the adults, and at other times seems to throw all caution to the wind as she tightrope walks the firehose on habitat!

Bham Now: How intelligent are Orangutans? 

Lori Perkins: Orangutans, and all animals, are as intelligent as they need to be!

 “Intelligence” is a funny concept. We typically compare all other animals to ourselves when judging intelligence, but it’s an unfair comparison – how intelligent is a human being placed in a rainforest with no instruction manuals and no ability to communicate with the resident species? 

What we can say is that orangutans are highly cognitively complex – they are able to solve intricate (human) problems and they require a lot of mental stimulation, and seem to enjoy those challenges. Some orangutans have been observed to engage in and understand computer-based games and puzzles. Orangutans are clever and creative tool-users in the wild and in human care. 

Bham Now: Can you give us a funny story about one of them that would make a great TikTok video?

Nadira
Orangutan Nadira celebrating her birthday. Photo via Birmingham Zoo

Williams: Recently, I was preparing to feed breakfasts. I had set the diet tubs in a location that should have been well out of reach before getting called away for a moment.

I came in to find that Nadira had gotten a box from her habitat and completely unfolded it to make a tool long enough to reach the food. She had eaten most of her prepared food mix and lettuce by the time I came back. I was disappointed in myself for underestimating her, but also impressed with her planning and fishing skills!

Bham Now: Why they Orangutans so cool? 

Perkins: My answer to this comes down to their uniqueness, and I’ve written a lot about the ways they are unique from the African apes (which include humans, the 3rd African ape species aside from gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos) – that information is here:https://www.orangutanssp.org/about-orangutans.html

How to Follow Oliver, Lipz and Nadira

Birmingham Zoo
Birmingham Zoo. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Presently, the  Birmingham Zoo and their Orangutans don’t have their own TikTok channel but guests are encouraged to follow Oliver, Lipz and Nadira and their fellow animals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Facebook @BirminghamZoo
  • Instagram @bhamzoo
  • Twitter @BirminghamZoo

Visit

Better yet, visit the Birmingham Zoo. You can make your own TikTok. You now know three orangutans ready to star in a viral TikTok with you!

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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