Orangutans typically shy away from bodies of water; however, along the Sekoyner River in Indonesia, award-winning nature photographer Jayaprakash Bojan managed to snap some photos of a male orangutan acting out of character. The ape braved the water for a chance to wash up, like a human would take a bath—somewhat strange behavior for a primate.
Bojan told Caters News that he was at the Tanjung Puting National Park, which is home to an orangutan rehabilitation center, when he noticed the male orangutan in a very rare position indeed.
“I was at the national park when I spotted this huge male orangutan getting into the river to get to the other side,” Bojan explained.
“This was very special and unique because orangutans are generally very shy of water and wary of the predators like crocodiles and alligators, historically documented only a very few times,” he added. “At one point he rested in the river with one hand holding a tree branch and looked like he was having a bath or a shower.
“He looked as though he was enjoying being there in the river in waist-deep waters!”
The photos were partially a lucky find for Bojan, yet the journey that the nature photographer took to get to the spot where he managed to capture the images also took some legwork on his own behalf.
“While talking to rangers around the park we were told that one of the rangers had seen an orangutan occasionally crossing a river in a remote part of the Sekoyner river,” he revealed.
So, Bojan packed up his camera and got on a small speedboat and then traveled for three hours through narrow parts of the river to the remote location where the rangers had reported seeing the primate. There, he waited for another two days before his primate friend finally decided to cross the waters—and gave Bojan some incredible images of a lifetime.
“It was amazing to watch him peep from behind the tree to see if I was still there. Thankfully, I was behind a huge tree trunk and did not scare it,” said Bojan. “After a while, he seemed a lot more comfortable in my presence and continued to the walk through the river with his hands in the air.”
Bojan revealed that he was a bit nervous that the orangutan would be in danger, as freshwater crocodiles are known to frequent the waters where he was crossing. But luckily, he made it safely across and got a chance to clean up a bit.
These photos are just a sampling of the incredible work that Bojan has done. Focusing primarily on the plight of the orangutan, he was named the National Geographic photographer of the year in 2017 after making the jump from simply taking photos as a hobby to making it his full-time profession.
While they’re fascinating and a little bit hilarious sometimes, Bojan explained that they’re more than just a brief bit of entertainment. They also display how primates have been impacted from the destruction of their habitat, particularly as a result of palm oil production.
“The pictures reflect sadness, empathy, and helplessness of these animals,” he admitted. “It is against their instincts to do so. The assumption here is that either they have learned it by watching humans or its something they had to do to survive in the changing landscape due to loss of habitat from palm oil farming.”