Critically Endangered Child Orangutan Born at Sacramento Zoo

The Sacramento Zoo is thrilled to announce {that a} Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan has been born on the Zoo – the primary orangutan delivery on the Sac Zoo since 1981.

With solely 79 Sumatran orangutans in human care in the US, and populations of untamed orangutans quickly declining, each delivery is a monumental success for the species.

Indah, the Zoo’s 19-year-old Sumatran orangutan, gave delivery to a wholesome male toddler on the night of Could 1. Each mom and toddler are doing nicely. After the delivery of the toddler, care workers started across the clock observations to make sure every part was going easily with the pair.


Whereas Indah’s conduct was acceptable, the first-time mom was having problem nursing, and the staff made the choice to intervene with a purpose to present the toddler with supplemental care. The infant is presently receiving across the clock care by animal care and veterinary workers whereas the staff is constantly reevaluating plans to reunite the toddler with Indah. The timeframe for reintroduction is unknown right now, however that continues to be the last word objective.

The toddler and mom stay wholesome and nicely, are being cared for behind-the-scenes, and will not be presently seen to members of the general public. The Zoo will proceed to maintain our group posted on how the pair are doing. We’re wanting ahead to sharing extra about this essential delivery.


The Zoo has shared with us a letter from the lead primate caregiver. It provides extra context and deeper data on why he’s presently being help reared. That letter is reproduced beneath:

A Letter from Janine Steele – Sac Zoo Animal Care Supervisor and Primate Keeper

“Pricey Zoo Buddies,

Saying this previous week or so has been loopy busy right here on the Zoo is a fairly an understatement! Now that we’re capable of take a breath for a second, I wished to offer you all a recap of what went on and the place we’re.

I’d like to begin with a bit of again story, Indah, the Zoo’s 19-year-old Sumatran orangutan, got here to the Sacramento Zoo in 2017 as a deliberate mate for the Zoo’s male orangutan Makan as a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) suggestion. With solely 79 Sumatran orangutans in human care in the US, and populations of untamed orangutans quickly declining, each delivery is a monumental success for the species. I’ve been a primate caregiver on the Sacramento Zoo for greater than 20 years and, together with the zoo’s staff of primate keepers, have been diligently planning for an orangutan delivery for a lot of of these years by meticulous constructive reinforcement coaching and workers preparations. So, when it was confirmed final yr that Indah was pregnant, our devoted staff started to ramp up that preparation in earnest.

It began on a cool spring day after an unseasonable heatwave…Indah, the Zoo’s 19-year-old Sumatran orangutan, began to behave a bit of “off”; she was not serious about consuming, and was being quick tempered. Indah had simply entered the two-week mark earlier than her estimated due date. Based mostly on further behaviors being noticed by her keepers and veterinary workers, it was decided that Indah was possible within the early levels of labor. Keeper workers added further bedding to her dens and scheduled 24-hour observations by way of digicam. In the course of the 5 pm – 7 pm verify, one among Indah’s observers famous Indah shifting out of a hammock the place she had been resting all through the day.

Head veterinarian, Jenessa Gjeltema and senior primate keepers instantly headed to the Ape Care Quarters. Digicam observers witnessed the delivery, and the staff on website heard loud crying and noticed a wholesome male orangutan toddler.

The staff watched Indah and her child from a distance for a number of hours to verify each have been doing nicely, after which left them alone for the night to bond. Digicam observations continued by to the subsequent day. Indah was light and caring towards the toddler, however nursing was not noticed.

In preparation for a possible delivery, Indah’s keepers labored diligently along with her for a number of years on a wide range of conditioning behaviors that will allow keeper and veterinary workers to help with future toddler rearing as crucial. These essential behaviors included bringing a pretend “child” (a stuffed orangutan from Ikea!) to the mesh for bottle feeding, inserting the “toddler” gently in a field and shifting away and presenting her nipple to the fake “child.”

The morning after the toddler’s delivery keeper and veterinary workers started asking Indah to voluntarily take part in a few of these behaviors, however after a sleepless night time with a new child, Indah was in no temper to listen to any of it.

In an effort to additional encourage Indah to feed her toddler, a Zoo workers member and his spouse (new dad and mom to twin boys!) have been good sufficient to return to the Zoo with their twins and nurse in entrance of Indah with the hopes that she may replicate the conduct along with her toddler. Indah held her toddler and noticed intently however continued to have problem nursing her personal toddler. Employees continued across the clock digicam observations, however nonetheless weren’t observing correct nursing behaviors from Indah.

The subsequent morning the twins and their dad and mom got here again for an additional in particular person nursing lesson and Indah really moved her child to her chest within the appropriate place. However nonetheless no nursing success.

With Indah’s assist, the veterinary staff was capable of get subcutaneous fluids and glucose to the newborn, however, after cautious statement by the staff, it was decided to be within the toddler’s greatest curiosity to intervene with supportive take care of the toddler. 

Child care quarters have been arrange within the orangutan home the place Indah would have her toddler in fixed sight. The zoo staff, geared up with a cot, loads of towels, an incubator, varied medical provides, and meals for the toddler then started 24-hour care of the toddler. The infant have to be bodily on a caregiver always whereas the caregiver wears a modified (hand-crafted) vest that simulates pure clinging to a mom. The infant have to be in view of his mom and the opposite orangutans always, and whereas he’s nonetheless unable to manage his physique temperature, the room have to be stored very (uncomfortable for caregivers) heat always.

The infant is held, bottle fed, temperature checked, cleaned, stimulated to grip and climb, and inspired to seek out the nipple around the clock. On the identical time, it is crucial that Indah sees and smells the toddler, and that her positive-reinforcement coaching continues with the hope that the toddler will in the end be positioned again along with his mom for rearing.

The staffing assets that will be crucial within the occasion of hand-rearing was a identified problem from the start. It is extremely troublesome to foretell precisely what that may entail due to all of the totally different variables concerned. The objective is to supply constant take care of the toddler, to reduce the chance of zoonotic illness transmission for the toddler and care workers, and to in the end reunite mom and toddler – all whereas not burning out the care workers. Skilled workers are presently doing two in a single day shifts: 4 pm to 12 am and 12 am to eight am, along with full day shifts with the toddler.

The objective is that this 24-hour care will solely be wanted for every week or so. Expert keepers, along with a staff of veterinarians from our companions on the UC Davis College of Veterinary Drugs, are in fixed communication and have excessive hopes for Indah and her toddler to be efficiently reunited quickly. 

My solely objective in life proper now could be to get that child again with mother completely, and we’re very targeted on that. For now, we have now a wholesome mom and a child that’s rising stronger by the day. Mom and child will each be staying of their heat den for a while and won’t be seen of their public-facing habitat any time quickly. Please be affected person with us as we offer the help essential to this first-time mom and her toddler. We are going to preserve you all updated as we have now further data. Thanks on your endurance, thanks on your assist, and thanks for caring in regards to the animals on the zoo as we do! 

– Janine Steele

Sac Zoo Animal Care Supervisor and Primate Keeper”

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