Oklahoma couple shares pool with swimming orangutan

Oklahomans Bill and Melissa Meadows, owners of Tiger Safari zoological park in Tuttle, drove to South Carolina institute to see famous swimming orangutan.
BY HEATHER WARLICK-MOORE Published: August 24, 2010
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What would you do to swim with an orangutan? Would you drive halfway across the country? Bill and Melissa Meadows would. In fact, last week, the Oklahoma couple did just that.


The 7-year-old orangutan, Suryia, has recently been featured on several television news programs for his unusual swimming skills — most orangutans won't go near water, experts say.

But Suryia, who lives at The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in Myrtle Beach, S.C., loves the water. The daily baths his trainers gave him got him interested in water.

Excited by the prospect of swimming with Suryia, the Meadowses, who own Tiger Safari zoological park in Tuttle and love rare and exotic animals, decided to take a late-summer road trip to Myrtle Beach. They are friends with TIGERS' founder, Bhagavan Antle.

But they didn't arrive empty-handed. In tow, they had their own little swimmer — a baby Asian small-clawed otter named Ottie they recently added to the Tiger Safari population.

So into the water they went, Bill and Melissa Meadows, Ottie and Suryia and even a tapir that also lives at the Myrtle Beach park.

"The interaction between the otter and the orangutan was amazing," Bill Meadows said. "The orangutan was actually picking up the otter and cuddling it."

What was really cool, Meadows said, was seeing Suryia swimming using a scuba respirator.

"It was awesome, just to do something that no one else has done," Bill Meadows said. While at the Myrtle Beach park, the Meadowses acquired another baby animal to bring home to Tiger Safari: a black and white ruffed lemur named Yen.