With Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo veterinary and primate animal care teams standing by; a precious Christmas gift came early. Josie, a 30-year-old Bornean Orangutan, gave birth to a male offspring on December 21. Although this was the fourth baby for an experienced mother, the offspring was born in the breech position creating a challenging labor and delivery.
“Josie did an amazing job with the delivery under difficult circumstances, and she cleared the baby’s airway herself immediately after birth,” said Dr. Ray Ball, director of medical sciences. “Along with our team, Josie’s 10-year-old daughter, Hadiah, observed the entire labor and delivery, which will be a very important experience for her when she becomes a mother.”
With the newborn, the Zoo is currently home to a group of six Orangutans: adult male Goyang who sired the infant, Josie and baby, Josie’s older daughter Hadiah, adult female Dee Dee, and her juvenile daughter RanDee. The new baby has been named “GoJo,” a blend of his parents’ names.
Born with a thin layer of red hair and cream-colored skin around his face and abdominal region, the infant (estimated at 2-3 pounds at birth) spends his days resting, nursing and snuggling with mom. New babies will ride on their mother’s chest and back for the first few years and will nurse for three to five years, on average. Orangutan offspring are dependent on their mothers for about seven years. As one of the world's largest primates, the Orangutan is second only to the Gorilla in size.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Bornean Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) designed to support the conservation of select wildlife species at risk of extinction. The male baby is eighth Bornean Orangutan born at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. There are fewer than 100 Bornean Orangutans in 24 AZA-accredited institutions in North America.
Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, the longhaired red great apes can be found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The species is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to critical habitat loss in Southeast Asia, with an estimated population decline of more than 50 percent during the last 60 years.
Conversion of Orangutan habitat to palm oil plantations is the greatest threat to the survival of the species. In 2015, raging fires intentionally set to burn the land before plantation development has had devastating effects on the forests – more than 2 million hectares (nearly 5 million acres) were burned. In addition, poaching and the pet-trade remain major threats to Orangutans across most of Borneo.