Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI are thrilled to announce the newest addition to their Zoo family; a critically endangered Bornean Orangutan! Chelsea’s baby arrived early Saturday morning, June 11, after a very smooth labor. Once the baby arrived, Chelsea immediately held it against her body, cleaned it, and she has been displaying all the maternal behaviors staff want to see at this stage. Infant orangutans are very small, usually only weighing about 3 pounds at birth, and are completely dependent on their mother for the first few years of their life. Chelsea has been doing such a good job of taking care of her baby, they didn’t immediately know the baby’s sex. Both Chelsea and the baby were doing well and sharing private bonding time together, behind the scenes in the Zoo’s Primate building.
This is Chelsea’s second offspring. Her first baby, a male named Bob, was born in 2006 and now lives at the Oregon Zoo. Bob sired a healthy baby girl in April, making Chelsea a “grandma” too. Orangutans have the slowest reproductive rate of all mammals. Females typically give birth every five to eight years, usually only having one offspring at a time. Orangutan babies have a lot to learn about life in the forest and have one of the longest “childhoods” in the animal world. They stay with their mothers for 7-8 years before becoming independent.
The baby’s dad Datu is on exhibit and will be introduced to the baby once Chelsea is comfortable navigating around her habitat while carrying the baby.
Chelsea and her baby GIRL are now visible to the public in Henry Vilas Zoo’s primate building. Officials believe in giving their animal residents choices so Chelsea has access to her private bedroom and sometimes goes there to rest, especially when there are large crowds, so it’s hard to predict exactly when she will be out and visible to the public but she has been bringing her baby out most mornings.
Baby orangutans are carried 24/7 for almost the first two years of their life! Infants can’t even raise their heads at birth. An infants grip is extremely firm, and they are capable of supporting their own body weight with just their hands, which comes in handy when your mom frequently climbs up high! They learn to sit upright by about two weeks and begin eating soft fruit around three months.