These Orangutans Are Viral for Their Thorough Hand Washing Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

Avoiding the coronavirus? Take some hygiene tips from these apes.
Koh Ewe
Orangutans washing their hands during coronavirus
(L) Image from Orangutan Jungle School on Facebook. (R) Image from the Center for Great Apes on Facebook.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak that is mainly transmitted by person-to-person contact and touching common surfaces, proper handwashing has never been more important. It is no longer a perfunctory ritual that we perform out of habit, but rather a potentially life saving practice that could protect us from the global contagion.

The United States’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, making sure to scrub the backs of hands, between the fingers, and under fingernails. People around the world have adopted this technique, and it looks like some animals have too.


In a Facebook video posted by the non-government organisation Center for Great Apes, an orangutan named Sandra that lives in its wildlife sanctuary in the United States is seen diligently scrubbing her hands with a brush and foamy soap.

Sandra the orangutan was born in 1986 at a zoo in Germany. She lived in a zoo in Argentina from 1994 until 2019, when she was sent to the Center for Great Apes.

In the post, the Center for Great Apes gave Sandra snaps for washing her hands for over 20 seconds. But, as it turns out, she didn’t just learn to do this because of the coronavirus outbreak. The video was previously posted in November 2019 and reposted on March 15.

Unsurprisingly, the video charmed netizens.

“Sandra is following CDC guidelines for COVID-19,” reads one comment. “Be like Sandra, wash your hands!” reads another.

On the other side of the world, in Indonesia, another ape also demonstrated an impeccable handwashing practice, as seen in a Facebook video posted by Orangutan Jungle School on March 18.

In the video, baby orangutan Cinta is seen dipping her hands into water and rubbing her palms together vigorously for at least 20 seconds before clapping her hands animatedly to shake off excess water.

“Orangutan Jungle School's fabulous Cinta is here to demonstrate her excellent hand washing technique for you all as we avoid the coronavirus,” reads the Facebook post.

Orangutan Jungle School is a TV series that documents the happenings at a forest school known as Nyaru Menteng in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The school was founded by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, a non-profit organisation.

Beyond the obvious “aww” factor in these painfully cute orangutan videos, these handwashing primates are also conveying an important message: wash your hands!

If orangutans can be this meticulous in washing their hands, what excuse do we have to blow off this crucial hygiene practice during a massive public health crisis?

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