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San Diego Zoo Celebrates the Birth of a Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan Infant

SAN DIEGO (Jan. 18, 2022) – A new year brings new beginnings—and that is especially true for Indah, a 35-year-old female Sumatran orangutan at the San Diego Zoo, who gave birth to her third infant earlier this month. The healthy 2-week-old male was born on January 4, and has been named Kaja, after an island in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, that houses rehabilitated orangutans prior to release in the wild. He is the first orangutan born at the Zoo in more than seven years, when Indah gave birth to her daughter Aisha back in 2014.

“To witness the birth of such a majestic critically endangered animal is a remarkable experience and brings us hope for the future,” said Erika Kohler, interim executive director of the San Diego Zoo. “His birth increases the population by one and that is a necessary step in our ongoing efforts to gain a deeper understanding of orangutans so we can conserve the species where they live.”

Although the infant orangutan was deemed healthy, Indah experienced some complications following the birth. Zoo team members reached out to community-based experts for help, including neonatal anesthesiologists and OB-GYN specialists. Indah is recovering, and will be on habitat intermittently. Both her and the infant are being monitored closely by wildlife health and wildlife care specialists.

“It was extremely rewarding to see the understanding and collaboration put forth by our talented team and community consultants to provide the necessary care for Indah and her infant,” said Meg Sutherland-Smith, director of veterinary services at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “We will continue to stay vigilant; and at the same time, remain hopeful.”

Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The decline in their population is due to illegal wildlife trafficking and habitat loss from rampant deforestation, which forces them into closer contact with people.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance works to save the species by collaborating with innovative partners. Along with organizations such as SINTAS Indonesia and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservationists work to prevent wildlife trafficking and encourage the public to help reduce the demand for wildlife products, while advocating for laws and other measures that protect wildlife.