It’s a strangely endearing story. At the Greatly Endangered and Rare Species park in South Carolina, the director likes to hop on an elephant and go for a daily ride. Surya the orangutan often comes along, riding in front between the elephant’s ears. On one particular day, they make their way to the edge of the river where the elephant normally takes a dip, when a stray hound dog comes out of the woods and sits by the bank. Alone, worn out, probably hungry, the dog just waits. But for what? Apparently for Surya, who jumps off the elephant and runs to embrace the dog. They hug, wrestle, roll around and play together like long lost brothers.
At the end of the elephant’s bath, the group heads back to the animal center with Surya on board. Once at the gate, they discover they have been followed, by guess who: That lonesome hound dog. He sneaks in the gate; they put him back out. He sneaks in another way; they put him back out again. They tell him to go home, back to his hunting pack. But this dog thinks he is home. He finds the orangutan habitat and goes to see his ape buddy again, where another rambunctious reunion takes place.
How the hound dog becomes a pet.
The staff soon realizes it is inevitable. Rosco (as they call the dog) is now part of the family. These unlikely friends, the ape and the hound dog, have daily time together for play and companionship. Surya always gives Rosco half of his big monkey biscuits, hugs him, leads him around, even takes him swimming. Surya likes to grab Rosco’s leash and take him for walks too. Well, maybe they should be called “rolls,” because Surya’s forward progress is mostly achieved by doing silly looking cartwheels behind Rosco. (See video.)
Why the Dog Whisperer thinks Surya is the alpha ape.
Cesar Milan, the “Dog Whisperer” whose show on the National Geographic channel focuses on a dog’s pack mentality, comments that Surya and Rosco have formed a pack of two. Surya is definitely the pack leader. “You can see that no matter what the orangutan is doing, the dog is in a submissive state,” said Milan. “. . . That is trust at its best. That tells you that you don’t need to know dog training to establish a relationship with a dog.”
Surya is the ape companion of Dr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, founder and director of T.I.G.E.R.S., The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Originally, the Rosco/Surya video was posted in September of 2009, and has now gone viral again, up to almost one million views.