A six-week-old female Sumatran Orangutan, named Siska (born September 3 to mum, Subis), was given her new moniker after staff at Chester Zoo confirmed her gender.
Siska shares her name with a specialist Orangutan vet, from Indonesia, who first spotted the new baby clinging to her mum on the morning she was born. Vet, Siska Sulistyo, who normally works in sanctuaries in South East Asia, has spent three months in Chester, UK, working alongside the zoo’s resident veterinary team, as part of an initiative to exchange knowledge and skills.
Chris Yarwood, Lead Keeper at Chester Zoo, said, “Siska has been named after an Indonesian vet who is spending some time working with our animal health teams here at the zoo. She was the very first person to spot our new arrival the morning she was born, so we thought it was a fitting name particularly given the vital conservation work that her team carry out in South East Asia with a range of endangered species.
“Sumatran Orangutans are being pushed dangerously close to extinction every day and, as it stands, they are one of the world’s most endangered species.
“Siska is a very special addition to both the zoo and the European-wide breeding programme, which aims to have a healthy safety-net population of the species in case the worst should happen--extinction in the wild.”
The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is one of the two species of orangutans. They are found only on the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia, and are more rare than the Bornean Orangutan. Males grow to about 200 lbs. (90 kg), and females can weigh about 99 lbs. (45 kg). Compared to the Bornean species, they are thinner and have longer faces, and their hair is longer with a paler red color.
The Sumatran species also tends to be more frugivorous and especially insectivorous. Their preferred fruits include figs and jackfruits.
Female Orangutans reach sexual maturity at around 5 years of age and have a 22 to 30-day menstrual cycle. Females generally give birth to their first offspring at around 14 years of age, and they have a gestation period of about 9 months. There are usually eight years between pregnancies. Females do most of the caring and socializing of the young.
Sumatran Orangutans are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It’s estimated that less than 6,500 Sumatran Orangutans now remain in the wild, as a result of destruction of habitat for logging, wholesale conversion of forest to palm oil plantations, and fragmentation caused by roads and hunting.
Siska and mum Subis will be moving into a brand new home at the zoo’s Islands development later in the year, as will the zoo’s other Sumatran Orangutans: Puluh, Emma, Indah, Tripa and Tuti.
Through its ‘Realm of the Red Ape Conservation Programme’, Chester Zoo is helping field workers in Borneo to restore forests in which Orangutans live. The zoo also backs the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project in Sumatra, which provides education workshops in schools close to areas where deforestation occurs, aiming to teach children about the importance of preserving the biodiversity where they live.
This month, Chester Zoo launched its annual Go Orange campaign, which aims to protect Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans in the wild. For more about how you can help, visit: www.chesterzoo.org/goorange .