Baby Asmara turns 2 months old this week! The critically endangered Sumatran orangutan was born at the zoo on November 22. Her parents are Tara and Tengku, two of the zoo’s adult orangutans. Asmara and mom Tara are doing well behind-the-scenes and zoo fans frequently send us questions via social media about the baby.
Angie Selzer is a zoo keeper who cares for the orangutans. She was present during Tara’s labor and witnessed the delivery of Asmara. Selzer explains the day-to-day life of Asmara, “She spends all of her time with her mom. Most of the time she’s nursing or sleeping in her nest. She grips onto her mom well.”
Developing a strong grip is important for orangutans. As Asmara grows she’ll begin climbing and swinging from tree to tree. Selzer reports that Asmara’s development is progressing normally and that Tara is gradually introducing some early independence into her baby’s routine, “Tara is doing a really good job. She gives Asmara tummy time and has been showing Asmara how to grip onto things other than just mom.”
Dr. Joe Smith is the zoo’s veterinarian. He explains why the vet staff and keepers have chosen to limit behind-the-scenes access to media and even to most zoo staff, “Orangutan infants have a naïve immune system, just like human babies do, and they can contract many of the same diseases that we humans can carry. Plus, we’re right in the middle of flu season so we’re choosing to be cautious.”
Dr. Smith stated that baby Asmara’s development is going well and that her vet staff and keepers do not have any medical concerns at this time.
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.
Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital. Click on the photos to enlarge: