Monkey World assists governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild.

At the Centre refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups.

Rescue & Rehabilitation
Monkey World | Ape Rescue Centre

You can now follow us on our
official page on
Twitter

For more information

You can now follow us on our
official page on
Facebook

For more information

Monkey World News

Who are you calling a chunky monkey?

Mail writer swaps slimming tips with Oshine, Britain's fattest orang-utan

Friday 10th September 2010

Any woman who has spent frustrated hours in front of a fitness video trying to ignore the lure of the biscuit tin is bound to feel just a little bit sorry for Oshine, the obese orang-utan. 


Just look at things, for a minute, from her point of view.

There she was, living the good life in the sunshine of Johannesburg, adored and indulged by her adoptive human parents, who loved nothing more than seeing her pretty face light up at the sight of a bag of sweets.


Cutting back on the calories:  Oshine was kept as a pet in
Africa for 13 years before being rescued.  Before arriving at rescue
centre in Dorset her weight has rocketed and keepers have
now put her on a strict diet.

She only had to blow a raspberry or clap her hands, and a lovely sticky plate of jelly arrived on her lap. If she was really clever, it would be followed by a marshmallow or two.

In all of her 13 years living in their house, she never had to move a muscle, swing from a tree or forage for food like her ape ancestors. And she was loved. So loved.

But unfortunately - as with her human cousins - love can pay cruel dividends. Although Oshine has never had to worry about tucking her muffin top into a pair of skinny jeans, or known the innate fear of seeing her holiday bikini photos on Facebook, she couldn't ignore the (Michelin-sized) spare tyres developing around her middle.

So big was her tummy that it prevented her walking on her knuckles, like she was once able to do as a younger, slimmer ape.

Not even Fern Britton had to endure that indignity.

Oh, and then people started harping on about all these boring things like potential diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and shortened life expectancy.

Hardly surprising, though, considering that Oshine was just 3ft 6in tall but weighed a whopping 15 stone.

So before she knew it, Oshine was on an aeroplane flying 5,600 miles to London, and on to the Monkey World rescue centre in Dorset - the simian equivalent of Fat Camp - which had agreed to rehome her after her heartbroken 'parents' realised they were killing her with kindness.


Time to get moving: The orang-utan is now receiving a
more natural, healthy diet and meeting others of her own kind
for the first time.

No sooner had she landed on August 31 than she was put on a strict diet and exercise programme and given daily instruction on how to be a 'normal' orang-utan again.

Any female would get grumpy under such circumstances. And when I come face to face with the comical cuteness of this squat little thing, with her multiple bellies, my heart almost breaks when I look into her doleful eyes.
My inner mummy is itching to comfort her. Surely a nibble at the Galaxy chocolate bar in my bag wouldn't hurt?

But Monkey World's director Dr Alison Cronin is standing too near for that, and she wouldn't tolerate such indulgences.

Oshine's new regime involves a carefully managed balance of fruit, vegetables and nuts, she tells me.

'When she arrived here, Oshine was definitely a spoiled and stubborn brat who had grown used to having her own way,' she says, smiling.

'The thing is, her owners never acted out of malice or neglect.  

'They adored her, and loved making her happy. She wasn't fed junk food around the clock. She received her daily rations of fruit, vegetables and the occasional cooked chicken breast - which is very similar to the diet she would have in the wild.

'But her owners did like to give her treats - and she developed a definite taste for jelly, sweets and marshmallows.'

She lived in a special enclosure in their back garden, which, although spacious, didn't have anywhere she could swing and climb - like she would in her natural habitat - to keep her amused and burn off the calories.

'She had nothing to do all day but sit around on her backside and eat,' says Dr Cronin.

'It's a predicament I know a lot of people can sympathise with.'

Indeed they do. At Monkey World, Oshine and her ample belly have become something of an attraction since her story hit the headlines this week.

There seems to be a never-ending queue of ladies of a certain girth queuing up to coo and sympathise with her.

Of course, it's all a very long way from her natural habitat.

Oshine, a Bornean orang-utan, was sold as a baby to a couple living in Indonesia, where, although they are an endangered species, it is common to keep the animals as pets.

With the couple's own children having flown the nest, Oshine became their surrogate baby.

She lived in their house with them and they lovingly dressed her in nappies and baby clothes. When the couple moved to South Africa, Oshine moved with them.

But as is so often the case with real offspring, it was when she hit adolescence that the problems began.

She started to become too big, clumsy and aggressive for indoor living, and was moved to her own special house in the back garden.

Eventually, though, the couple realised that, much as they adored her, such a life wasn't right for an orang-utan, and they contacted Monkey World, which has a global reputation for rehousing more than 230 primates from all over the world.

It took two years to complete the paperwork for Oshine's emigration, then Dr Cronin and animal director Jeremy Keeling went to Johannesburg to escort Oshine to the UK.

Her owners (Monkey World has agreed not to name them) were utterly distraught when she left, but consoled themselves with the knowledge that they were doing the right thing.


Oshine arrived at the rescue centre from South Africa
where she was kept as a pet since she was a baby.

Once installed in her new home in Dorset, the hard work began. The first step was for Oshine to get used to other orang-utans.

‘It’s like introducing a 13-year-old who has never played with other children to the realities of life in the playground,’ says Dr Cronin. ‘It is going to be very scary and will take her a while to work things out.

‘Change is horrid — even more so for an adult than a youngster — and you have to remember that Oshine is an adult.

‘But she has adjusted well and seems happy, though I know that were we to open the door to her old life, with her enclosure and her sweets, she would take it — because that is what she is comfortable with.'

Her carers were delighted, though, when she showed signs of her latent orang-utan instincts, immediately climbing 30ft to the top of her new two-storey enclosure to nest down for the night. Somewhere in her DNA, she remembered it was safest to sleep high in the jungle.

To further help her adjustment, Oshine spends a couple of hours every morning in the primate creche with another adult female, who was put there especially to take care of four young orphans.

Staff are always on hand in case relations turn sour between the two adult females.

‘It was definitely handbags at dawn when they first met,’ says Dr Cronin.
‘There was a lot of posturing, posing and puffing out of chests, but no real aggression. Oshine seems utterly intrigued by the four youngsters, but isn’t quite at the stage to let her fur down and join in just yet.’

More importantly, Oshine also seems to have adjusted well to her new diet. After nearly two weeks, it seems those marshmallows are already a distant memory.

‘She is not on a strict diet — just an appropriate one for an adult orang-utan,’ says Dr Cronin.

‘We wouldn’t want to put her on a starvation diet of lettuce and celery because that would make her stressed and unhappy. We all know how miserable that is.

‘She particularly likes melon, which — as all dieters know — is fantastic for those with a sweet tooth, as it is virtually all water and very low in calories.’
The regime appears to be paying off already. There are distinct dimples appearing in Oshine’s flab, indicating she’s lost a few pounds, and her agility is coming along in leaps and bounds.

In the future, once Oshine is back to full health, it is hoped she can be introduced to a potential suitor — and could then become a mother herself.
‘Male orang-utans would have no problem with her weight — they’re not fussy — but if Oshine were to become pregnant now, she would face the same dangers as any overweight human female, such as high blood pressure and potential preeclampsia,’ says Dr Cronin.

With fame, boyfriends, motherhood and a new slimline ‘bikini body’ to look forward to, it seems Oshine’s future is definitely bright.

Surely, it can only be a matter of time before she has her own fitness video out.

I, for one, cannot wait.

Back to news headlines