orangutan toddler

'I wanna be like you': A Junglebook jolly as toddler Emily and baby orangutan
Rishi monkey around together

By Mail Foreign Service Last updated at 9:11 PM on 05th December 2008

In a crawling race across the grass they're evenly matched. But Emily Bland will need a little practice before taking on her new friend at tree-climbing.

The little girl, two, met one-year-old orangutan Rishi at an animal centre while visiting with her father.

They took to each other straight away and spent hours tumbling about and having a tea party. Emily poured while Rishi waited patiently, gripping his spoon in a hairy fist.

Moksha and Tiger Swimming
On all fours: A delighted Emily plays with her best new friend Rishi

The pair then settled down for a quiet cuddle before it was time for Emily to leave.

It was reminiscent of the scene from the 1967 Disney classic The Jungle Book, when the monkey 'King Louie' tells Mowgli: 'I wanna be like you.'

Emily's father Barry Bland, 38, a photographer, said: 'I had come along to the institute to photograph Rishi and I thought it would be good to bring Emily.

'Almost as soon as we arrived, Rishi had an instant chemistry with Emily. They looked completely content with each other.'

The friendship came as no surprise to those in charge of Rishi's home, The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S) in Miami.

Tigers swim How sweet, a kiss for Emily, whose father says the pair hit it off instantly

Dr Bhagavan Antle: 'Orangutans are intelligent and certainly the most friendly apes on the planet.

'The youngsters enjoy their playtime and are always looking for an opportunity experience new things and make new friends and monkey around.

'Rishi, who is the youngest of the family, is always looking for someone to play with.

'That's where Emily stepped in to provide a playmate to swing in the trees, have tea with, and go for a ride.

'All infants have the capacity to get along and as youngsters the barriers between species appear to disappear.'

Orangutans are one of the most endangered species on earth.

Recent expansion of palm oil plantations and over logging of their forests in Borneo and Sumatra have created a rapidly declining habitat for these great apes.

Orangutan in stroller Emily takes her new friend for a stroll

'With other species their numbers maybe less but they are stable, with orangutans their populations are plummeting,' says Dr Bhagavan Antle.

Working in conjunction with Jungle Island, T.I.G.E.R.S is a wildlife education organisation dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational and entertaining interactive programs.

Under the supervision of their handlers, animals wander freely through the T.I.G.E.R.S institute, allowing spectators to enjoy an up close and personal experience.

Now living with his adopted family, females Hanuman, Aspara (both aged two) and four-year-old male Suryia, Rishi has found the perfect home.

Orangutan and Emily Teaparty One lump or two Rishi? The pair enjoy afternoon tea

'Rishi was brought over to T.I.G.E.R.S from Jungle Island because he was a young boy,' says Dr Antle.

'He couldn't stay with his father or the other male orangutans in the habitat because they throw the boys out.

'But he is now been fully accepted into his new group. He sleeps with them and he stays side by side with them he is when them all the time.'

Rishi will now stay at the institute where he will become part of the animal ambassadors program, participating in education and conservation presentations at Myrtle Beach and Jungle Island institutions.

Judging from these photos it looks as though Rishi has found a friend for life.