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A 2-week-old female Bornean Orangutan born at Brookfield Zoo on December 20 made her official public debut this week to the delight of zoo staff and guests.

As she clings to her mother, the unnamed female infant demonstrates a baby Orangutan’s amazing ability to hold on tight as her mother moves through the treetops.  This infant is the sixth for 35-year-old Sophia, so she is experienced at raising babies.

DSC_7152--1-1Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

For about the next 10 months, the infant will continuously cling to Sophia. An infant Orangutan relies on its mother longer than any other mammal except humans. An infant may nurse from its mother for up to five years and stays close to her up to age eight. Because of this long dependency, there is a six- to eight-year interval between births. A female remains with her mother into her teens, which gives the young Orangutan the opportunity to observe her mother raise an infant and gain the knowledge she will need once she becomes a mother herself. This birth will be a great opportunity and experience for Sophia’s daughter Kekasih, 8, to watch her mother care for and raise a baby.

Orangutans, a critically endangered species, once lived in much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced due to deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and poaching. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Bornean Orangutan population declined by more than 60 percent between 1950 and 2010, and a further 22 percent decrease is projected through 2025.

Brookfield Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for the species. The program manages the breeding of Orangutans in zoos to maintain a healthy, self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. The pairing of Sophia and her mate Ben was based on a recommendation by the Orangutan SSP. Currently, 94 Bornean Orangutans and 87 Sumatran Orangutans live in North American zoos.