Orangutan at Henry Vilas Zoo Reaches Milestone

1_Bornean Orangutan | Henry Vilas Zoo

The baby Bornean Orangutan, at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, has reached an important milestone in her growth and development. She recently turned 100 days old!

Henry Vilas Zoo excitedly announced the infant’s birth on April 9.  The healthy female was born to first-time parents Kawan and Datu, and she was named Keju (‘kay-joo’), Malay for “cheese”.

“We are excited to have Keju as part of our zoo family,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “No matter where she goes in life, her name is a reminder that she is a true Wisconsinite. We take great pride in the work we do to protect endangered species.” 


3_Keju_infant Bornean orangutan_2015_Photo credit Henry Vilas Zoo

4_Infant Bornean orangutan Keju_April 2015_Photo credit Henry Vilas ZooPhoto Credits: Beth Petersen/Henry Vilas Zoo (Image 1); Henry Vilas Zoo (Images 2-6)

Keju is important to the national effort to maintain a population of this endangered species, through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP). Orangutans are found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and are the only great ape found in Asia. Bornean Orangutans are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and Sumatran Orangutans are considered “Critically Endangered”, with less than 6,000 individuals left in Sumatra.

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Baby Orangutan Climbs and Explores at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Baby Asmara Climbing 7What does a six-month-old Sumatran Orangutan like to do?  Climb, explore, and climb some more!

Asmara the Sumatran Orangutan was born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on November 22, 2014, one of only two babies of this critically endangered species to be born in a United States zoo in 2014.  

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Baby Asmara learning to climbPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

You first met Asmara on ZooBorns when she was four months old and still clinging tightly to her mother, Tara.  Asmara first started climbing at about five months old, using small ropes that keepers hung close to the ground.  Now, Tara carries her baby high into the trees within the exhibit and lets her little one explore.  Asmara grips the vines with both hands and both feet, sometimes unsure of what she should do next.  Mom is always close by to rescue the little ape when she gets herself in a fix.

It’s easy to see that Orangutans are specially adapted for life in the treetops.  With thumb-like big toes, these apes can grasp branches with ease.

Sumatran Orangutans are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and are found nowhere else in the wild.  Because their rain forest habitat is being destroyed, often for the illegal construction of palm oil plantations, Sumatran Orangutans are confined to small fragments of forest.  They are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 7,000 remain in the wild. 

See more photos of Asmara below the fold.

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Baby Orangutan Hangs on Tight


Asmara, a 16-week old Sumatran Orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, went into her exhibit for the first time last week. Until now, Asmara and her mother, Tara, have been living in an off-exhibit bedroom adjacent to the main exhibit.


Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

On their first day in the exhibit, Asmara clung tightly to her mother as Tara explored high up in the trees.  Zoo keeper Angie Selzer watched nervously, but all went well. "Tara climbed very high right away, but Asmara clung tightly just like she would in the wild," she said.

Prior to the big day, the exhibit underwent extensive baby-proofing.  Zoo keepers covered the floor with soft straw and checked the trees, walls, and vines for potential safety issues.  The City of Fort Wayne's tree crews even got involved, helping to reinforce the vines and hammocks.

Born on November 22 to Tara and her mate, Tengku, Asmara is important to the future of Sumatran Orangutans, which are Critically Endangered.  About 320 Sumatran Orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and an average of 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos. In the wild, these red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations.

Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran Orangutans remain in the wild. Some experts predict Orangutans could become extinct in the wild within a few decades if circumstances remain unchanged.

And Baby Makes Eight

Baby Orangutan (2)

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is home to eight Orangutans, including their newest, born November 19, 2014.  

Baby Orangutan (1)


IMG_1227Photo Credits: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

The female was born to first-time mother, ‘Sepilok’, and father, ‘Chip’.  The zoo recently held a naming contest for the baby, and her new name will be announced on February 2nd.

New mom, Sepilok, was born in Hong Kong in 2001, and she came to the Omaha zoo in 2003. Proud father, Chip, was born in Rochester, NY in 1993 and arrived in Omaha in 1998. Chip is the zoo’s oldest resident Orangutan, at 21 years-of-age.

Female Orangutans reach sexual maturity between ages 10 and 15. They give birth every 6-8 years, and have a gestation period of about 245 days. With an average lifespan of only 40 years, Orangutans may only give birth to four or five infants in a lifetime, which is why each birth is so important to the population. The fact that Sepilok stems from a Hong Kong lineage makes her a genetically valuable participant in the breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Bornean Orangutans are listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. As with most species surviving in the wild, habitat destruction is the biggest threat. A great majority of habitat destruction in Indonesia is due to the demand for palm oil, with palm oil plantations destroying forests to grow palm trees for harvesting.

Baby Orangutan Thriving Under Keepers' Care

A baby Sumatran Orangutan at Germany’s Zoo Berlin is being raised by zoo keepers after her mother failed to care for her.



Photo Credit: Zoo Berlin

The baby was born early in the morning on January 12 to first-time mother Djasinga, age 11.  Despite attempts by zoo keepers to get mother and baby together, the two did not bond.  Keepers decided to hand-rear the infant, who is healthy and strong.

Every two to three hours, the baby is bottle-fed with infant formula.  For now, she resides behind the scenes, where she cannot be seen by zoo guests.  The zoo’s animal care team, in cooperation with the European Endangered Species Programme, will begin the process of determining the next steps for the baby.  Zoo Berlin houses eight Orangutans in two groups.

Sumatran Orangutans are native only to the island of Sumatra, where they inhabit rain forests.  Like their close relatives the Bornean Orangutans, these apes are perilously close to extinction due to extreme habitat loss as forests are converted to palm oil plantations.  By purchasing products made with sustainable palm oil, consumers can help preserve important Orangutan habitat.

See more photos of the baby Orangutan below.

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Baby Orangutan Delivered by C-Section at Como Zoo

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A healthy baby Sumatran Orangutan was delivered by Caesarean section on January 7, and the Como Zoo is celebrating this precious arrival.

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Sleepy (2)Photo Credit:  Como Zoo

An entire team of 15 medical professionals was on hand to deliver 27-year-old Markisa’s baby.  The staff had known for some time that Markisa would require a C-section, because she had one in the past.  The baby weighed nearly three and a half pounds, which is a robust weight for an infant Orangutan.  The baby was delivered at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center by Dr. Micky Trent, the lead veterinarian for Como Zoo, with the consultation of an extensive pre-appointed medical team comprised of human obstetricians, neonatologists, and veterinary anesthesiologists.

“C-sections are very rare in that there are only about a dozen recorded within the International Orangutan Studbook that has tracked more than 1,200 births in captivity,” said Como Zoo primate keeper Megan Elder, who serves as the International Studbook Keeper for the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the Vice-Chair for the North America Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP).

This is a very important birth both for the Como Zoo and for the species. Markisa was recommended for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Orangutan SSP because of her status as one of the most genetically valuable female Sumatran Orangutans in North America. 

Markisa returned to Como Zoo and is recovering from her procedure. The newborn is being bottle-fed by zoo staff during the time she is separated from Markisa.  The baby will be introduced to Markisa over the course of several weeks.  

About 200 Orangutans are currently on exhibit in zoos throughout the U.S.  Their native population, found primarily in Sumatra and Borneo, has dwindled due to commercial logging, agriculture, hunting and poaching –all of which put the species under the threat of extinction.

See more photos of the baby Orangutan below.

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Help Name This Rare Baby Orangutan!

Baby-orangutan-Jan-1-2015_IMG_8312_Stephanie-Braccini-Saint-Louis-Zoo_webThe Saint Louis Zoo welcomed a rare baby Sumatran Orangutan on December 14, one of only two born in United States zoos in 2014.

Merah_Baby_Dec14_BracciniPhoto Credit:  Stephanie Braccini

The baby, a female, was born to mother Merah, age 45, and father Cinta, age 10.  Mother and baby are doing well, but they will remain behind the scenes for at least a month.  The first 30 days of a baby Orangutan’s life are critical for developing a strong bond between mother and baby.

The baby hasn’t been named yet, and you can help choose the name!  The zoo's Great Ape care team was asked to select a few potential female names, and you can vote for your favorite. The four name choices are: Marigold, Lucy, Cranberry and Ginger.

Now through 11:50 p.m. on January 16, you can cast your vote online in the Name the Baby poll

Zoo staff will reveal the baby’s name at a baby shower in honor of Merah and the newborn on Monday, January 19.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Orangutan Species Survival Plan recommended the birth as part of its role in creating a sustainable managed population for this critically endangered species.

"Merah is an excellent and experienced mother," said Stephanie Braccini, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager, Great Apes. "She is carrying the infant, facilitating nursing, essentially doing everything right."

Prior to the birth, Merah's caretakers had conditioned her to allow voluntary ultrasound examinations by zoo veterinarians; these examinations allowed the team to proactively monitor the health and development of the baby during gestation. Merah and her baby continue to be monitored closely by a team of caretakers, veterinarians, and a nutritionist.

This is the fifth baby for Merah, the grandmother of two and the great-grandmother of one. She was born in the Netherlands and became a first-time mother in 1982.

Both Bornean Orangutans, endemic to Borneo, and Sumatran Orangutans, endemic to Sumatra, are highly endangered due to alarming habitat loss. A global demand for palm oil has resulted in widespread deforestation and subsequent drastic declines in the number of Orangutans that survive in the wild.

See more photos of the baby below.

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Rare Baby Orangutan is First US Birth in 2014

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - Credit Angie Selzer 3
A Sumatran Orangutan born on November 22 at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is the only one born in a United States zoo so far in 2014, and therefore represents a significant addition to the population of this critically endangered species.

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 10 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Dr Kami Fox

Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Angie Selzer 2
Baby Sumatran Orangutan - 3 days old - Fort Wayne Children's Zoo - credit Angie Selzer
Asmara 10 days old - credit Angie Selzer
Photo Credit:  Angie Selzer (1,3,4,5); Kami Fox (2)

Zoo keepers and veterinary staff expected 19-year-old Tara to give birth between mid-November and early December. They had been watching Tara by remote camera overnight for several weeks. When keepers observed Tara pacing in her off-exhibit bedroom late in the evening on November 21, they suspected she was in labor and arrived at the zoo to monitor the birth.

Tara’s labor lasted a few hours, and she delivered her female baby unassisted. Immediately following the delivery, Tara began cleaning her infant and placed it in her nest – a pile of wood shavings and blankets – where she sleeps at night.

Zoo officials are cautiously optimistic about the baby’s future. Because this is Tara’s first baby and she has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.

To address any potential problems, zoo keepers spent several months preparing an extensive Birth Management Plan. Prior to the birth, zoo keepers used a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning to train Tara to bring her “baby” to keepers who could bottle-feed it if Tara failed to nurse. Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse a baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

“So far, none of these measures has been needed,” said Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Tara is proving to be a good mother.”

The breeding of Tara with 28-year-old male Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals. Lori Perkins of Zoo Atlanta chairs the Orangutan SSP, and she says that only eight other orangutans have been born in United States Zoos in 2014, but all are Bornean orangutans – a separate subspecies from the Sumatran Orangutans that are held at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Perkins notes that two other Sumatran Orangutans are currently pregnant at other US zoos.

About 320 Sumatran Orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and an average of 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos. In the wild, these red-furred apes are found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, where the population is in drastic decline due to illegal hunting and the destruction of their forest homes to build palm oil plantations. Fewer than 7,000 Sumatran Orangutans remain in the wild. Some experts predict Orangutans could become extinct in the wild within a few decades if circumstances remain unchanged. 

What’s In a Name? Help New Baby Find Out


The Phoenix Zoo is home to an adorable new Bornean Orangutan. The new male was born September 2nd, to mother, ‘Bess’, and father, ‘Michael’, and he is the second baby born to the pair, joining eight-year-old sister, ‘Kasih’. 



Phoenix-Zoo-Bornean-orangutan-baby-02-photo-by-Joseph-BeckerPhoto Credits: Joseph Becker / Phoenix Zoo

Bornean Orangutan newborns spend the first four to five months clinging tightly to their mothers, so it will still be awhile before the baby begins moving about independently. At this young age, the baby spends much of his time nursing and sleeping. Orangutan young remain with their mothers until they are around seven years old, making theirs one of the longest childhoods in the animal kingdom.

The Phoenix Zoo is asking for the public’s help in naming the newborn. Their staff has selected five names, each with its own special meaning, and they invite you to vote on your favorite choice. The winning name will be announced at a baby shower event at the Zoo on November 8, 2014, followed by the announcement of the name on Facebook:  (http://www.facebook.com/PhoenixZoo) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/PhoenixZoo).

Voting ends November 6, 2014 at 8 p.m. MST.

The five potential names are:

Abadi – meaning “enduring”
Duke – honoring the baby’s grandmother Duchess
Jantung – meaning “heart”
Jiwa – meaning “soul”
Warisan – meaning “legacy”

Cast your vote by visiting http://phoenixzoo.org/2014/10/27/help-us-name-baby-orangutan/

Bornean Orangutans are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, and scientists estimate that wild orangutans could be extinct in 5-10 years, if their forest habitat continues to be destroyed at the current rate. Forests in Borneo and Sumatra are being destroyed for lumber and to produce palm oil, which is used in countless snack foods, household cleaning supplies and cosmetics. You can help reduce demand for unsustainably harvested palm oil by purchasing products that use certified sustainable palm oil and by supporting the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil at rspo.org

Baby Orangutan Finds a Home at Brookfield Zoo


Kecil, a 6-month-old Bornean Orangutan, is winning the hearts of Brookfield Zoo fans, but most importantly, he is bonding with his surrogate mother, a 53-year-old Bornean Orangutan named Maggie.


Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo

Kecil (pronounced Ka-cheel, which is Indonesian for “little”), was born at the Toledo Zoo to an experienced mother, but she did not care for him.  The AZA’s Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Hand Rearing/Surrogacy Advisory Group leapt into action and found a surrogate mother for Kecil at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  Unfortunately, Kecil and that female orangutan did not successfully bond, and the team identified Maggie as a potential surrogate.

Throughout the process of finding a suitable surrogate, staff members at all three zoos provided exceptional care for Kecil.  All baby animals have better outcomes when raised by members of their own species.  They typically are better socialized and become better parents themselves – a very important trait for endangered animals like Orangutans, where the genetic material of every animal is important to the survival of the species.

Upon his arrival at Brookfield Zoo, Kecil was given a brief physical examination and then taken to an off-exhibit area at the zoo’s Tropic World exhibit to be introduced to Maggie. Since the two have been together, animal care staff have seen very positive interactions. The two engage each other in play, and the young orangutan often sleeps in the crook of Maggie’s arm. He has shown interest in Maggie’s food, but for now he has been sampling softer foods like bananas, and baby cereal has become a staple. In addition, Kecil comes to the front of their enclosure on his own or with Maggie’s assistance to be bottle-fed, which will continue at least until he is a year old.

“Although it has been only a short time and we have a long road ahead of us, we are extremely optimistic due to Kecil and Maggie’s progress so far. Maggie is an easygoing and gentle Orangutan. The two have been together since Kecil’s arrival, and Maggie has provided care and attention that he needs to receive from an Orangutan.” said Jay Petersen, curator of primates and carnivores for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

Kecil was born on January 11, 2014, at Ohio’s Toledo Zoo. His mother, Yasmin, who has raised her own offspring in the past, showed little interest in caring for him following a difficult delivery. Toledo Zoo’s keepers and veterinary team worked tirelessly to offer the two private off-exhibit quarters, hoping that they would bond. However, after months of dedicated but unsuccessful efforts to encourage Yasmin to care for Kecil, they decided it would be best to place him with a surrogate at another zoo.

On May 19, at four months old, Kecil was taken to Milwaukee County Zoo to be placed with a possible surrogate named MJ. During the month Kecil was at Milwaukee, animal care staff worked around the clock to introduce Kecil to MJ, and the initial results were positive. However, the optimal level of bonding that staff had hoped to see was not achieved, and after various stages of progress, the situation seemed to have reached a plateau.

Once again, discussions took place to determine the next course of action for the infant. Because it is extremely important that Kecil be raised by Orangutans rather than humans, the animal care experts decided to try another potential surrogate, and he was moved to Brookfield Zoo to be introduced to Maggie.

During the transfers to Milwaukee County Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, an animal care staff member from the previous facility accompanied Kecil to help in his transition. “Kecil seems calm and adaptable to the changing situations in his young life. The moves don’t seem to have fazed him at all,” said Petersen. “We are all hoping that Brookfield Zoo will be his last move for a while.”

“The collaboration among the three institutions to ensure Kecil grows up in the best environment possible speaks to the commitment of everyone involved,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society.

It will be many months before Kecil and Maggie will be on exhibit for guests to see. Animal care staff want to give the two time to develop their relationship. In addition, Kecil needs to become much more agile and mobile before being introduced to the exhibit. 

Orangutans once lived over much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced. Their natural habitat—the rain-forest islands of Sumatra and Borneo—continues to be decimated. Huge tracts of the rain forests are logged and converted to palm oil plantations. There are approximately 40,000 Bornean Orangutans left in the wild, and the population has declined by 50 percent since 1990. 

See more photos of Kecil and Maggie below.

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