Pongo the Orangutan just turned one year old just a few days ago, on January 10. He was born by Caesarian section at Zoo Atlanta and raised by a team of zoo keepers, volunteers and veterinarians while Blaze, the mother, recovered.
A first-time mom, Blaze fully recovered from the surgery but wasn't quite ready to take on the role of motherhood. Caregivers began a careful series of introductions, allowing mother and baby to see each other across a barrier (for safety). In the first two photos, Pongo is watching mom at an introdution session.
After two months of introductions, Blaze finally reached a curious hand out toward the little baby.
Reintroduction efforts continued daily. Pongo was taken to the orangutan building each morning for intros with Blaze, and each evening returned to a nursery to receive round-the-clock care and feeding from staff and volunteer caregivers. Meanwhile, he was growing steadily, gaining strength, and learning how to climb!
Photo credits: Zoo Atlanta / Adam K. Thompson (1-3, 11, 13, 15); Primate Team (4, 7, 11); Laura Mayo (5); Lynn Yakubinis (6, 8); Kate Leach (9, 10, 12); Max Block (14)
See and read more after the fold!
In a stroke of amazing keeper ingenuity, the team provided Pongo, who had not gotten the hang of nursing, with a life-sized toy orangutan. The team has made a small hole in the plush and have pushed his bottle through in an attempt to help him learn how to nurse when he's with Mom. It worked!
Throughout the hand-raising process, caretakers tried to make the experience as natural for the baby as possible, even using fuzzy orange blankets to simular a mother's hair.
Finally in March, something clicked, and Blaze accepted her baby.
Pongo and Blaze were fully reuinted, but not ready to go outside yet, so plenty of fun was provided indoors. They loved to play with big sheets of paper!
Finally the mother and baby were ready to move to their outdoor habitat. Pongo continued nursing from mom, but got supplemental feedings from human caregivers too, to manke sure he was getting all the nutrition he needed. The two are happy and well-adjusted, with lots of room to play outside. Now that he's back with mom, Pongo is learningeverything he needs to know about being an Orangutan.