Archive for Orangutans

Baby Orangutan Born at the Zoo

baby orangutan fort wayne zoo

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, delivered a healthy female baby in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 22.

The baby is the only Sumatran orangutan born in a United States zoo in 2014, so she represents a significant addition to the population of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.

“We are thrilled with the outcome so far,” said Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon. “Tara is doing everything she should to care for her baby.”

Zoo keepers and veterinary staff expected 19-year-old Tara to give birth between mid-November and early December.  They had been watching Tara by remote camera overnight for several weeks.  When keepers observed Tara pacing late Friday in her off-exhibit bedroom, they suspected she was in labor and arrived at the zoo to monitor the birth.  Tara’s labor lasted a few hours, and she delivered her baby unassisted.

Immediately following the delivery, Tara began cleaning her infant and placed it in her nest – a pile of wood wool and blankets – where she sleeps at night.  The baby was first observed nursing Sunday morning.

No name has yet been chosen for the baby.  For now, Tara and the baby are staying in the bedrooms adjacent to the zoo’s orangutan exhibit.

Tara’s pregnancy was announced in October.  Orangutans are pregnant for an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.  The baby’s father is Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, who arrived in Fort Wayne from Zoo Atlanta in 1995.

Zoo officials are cautiously optimistic about the baby’s future.  Because this is Tara’s first baby and she has never observed another female caring for an infant, officials were concerned that she may not know how to care for her baby.

To address any potential issues with the birth, zoo keepers spent the last several months preparing an extensive Birth Management Plan.  Prior to the birth, zoo keepers used a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning to train Tara to bring her “baby” to keepers who could bottle-feed it if Tara failed to nurse.  Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse a baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

“So far, none of these measures has been needed,” said Weldon.  “Tara is proving to be a good mother.”

The breeding of Tara with Tengku was recommended by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals.  Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in 2013 from the Columbus Zoo.  Lori Perkins of Zoo Atlanta chairs the Orangutan SSP, and she says that only eight other orangutans have been born in United States Zoos in 2014, but all are Bornean orangutans – a separate subspecies from the Sumatran orangutans that are held at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Perkins notes that two other Sumatran orangutans are currently pregnant at other US zoos.

Zoo fans can watch for baby photos on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks. Zoo guests will have their first chance to see the new baby when the zoo opens for the season on April 25.  “Orangutans grow very slowly, so this baby will still be clinging to mom and learning to climb when the zoo opens in the spring,” said Weldon.  Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal other than humans, and require maternal care until they are six to eight years old.

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:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans, Zoo News

Got Pumpkins?

pig with pumpkin

Got Pumpkins?  We do!  It’s that time of year again, when pumpkins and gourds take over the zoo’s landscape.  They’re festive and provide the perfect backdrop for our annual Wild Zoo Halloween event, but our sea of squash is more than just décor.  The pumpkins we stock also provide enrichment for the zoo’s animals.

Lemurs, red pandas, and pigs are among the many animals at the zoo who have “pumpkin playtime” on their enrichment calendars.  Each animal approaches the Fall treat in a different way.

Lemurs lick honey and raisins off the outside of the pumpkins.  (We can thank their zoo keepers for the five-star dinner presentation.)  Red pandas forage inside pumpkins, but not for the seeds.  Instead, zoo keepers fill the pandas’ pumpkins with their preferred diet of bamboo.  The zoo’s pigs approach the filled pumpkins in a different way, treating each one like an “edible bowl”.

Animal enrichment is a daily event at the zoo with a variety of activities tailored to each animal’s needs.  This time of year, pumpkins are aplenty and provide a seasonal twist for zoo animals.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

 

Posted in: Central Zoo, Enrichment, Farm Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News

Tara the Orangutan is Pregnant

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo orangutan

Tara, a Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, is expecting a baby this fall. This is the first pregnancy for 19-year-old Tara, and the baby would be the second orangutan ever born at the zoo.

“We’re excited about Tara’s pregnancy and the chance to add to the population of this critically endangered species,” says Zoo Animal Curator Mark Weldon.

The baby is due sometime from mid-November to early December.  The father is Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, who arrived in Fort Wayne from Zoo Atlanta in 1995.  Orangutans are pregnant for an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.

Tara came to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in April 2013 from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and was introduced to Tengku and Melati, a 29-year-old female orangutan, about a month after arriving.  Zoo keepers regularly monitor Tara’s hormonal cycles and after changes were noted in her cycle this spring, zoo keepers used a human pregnancy test kit to confirm the pregnancy. (Certain brands of over-the-counter tests are known to react accurately with orangutan hormones.)

The breeding of Tara with Tengku was recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums that seeks to maintain genetic diversity within populations of endangered animals.  About 320 Sumatran orangutans live in zoos worldwide, and only about 15 babies are born each year in the world’s zoos.  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.

At age 19, “Tara is the perfect age for breeding,” says Zoo Keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.   However, Tara has never given birth, nor has she lived with another female who has delivered a baby. As a result, Tara may not know how to raise an infant.  “Orangutans learn by watching others,” says Weldon.  “If Tara’s never observed maternal behavior, she may not know how to take care of a baby.”

To address any potential issues with the birth, zoo keepers have prepared an extensive Birth Management Plan.  Using a plush stuffed toy and operant conditioning, Tara has been trained to bring her “baby” to keepers who will bottle-feed it if Tara fails to nurse.  Tara has also been trained to present her nipple to keepers to nurse her baby, in the event that keepers must provide daily care for the infant.

In 2006, female orangutan Sayang delivered the first orangutan ever born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Just one hour after giving birth to a healthy male infant, Sayang collapsed and died unexpectedly from a blood clot in her lungs.

The baby, named Dumadi, was cared for around the clock by zoo keepers until he was eight months old.  He moved to Zoo Atlanta in 2007, where he was fostered by Madu, an experienced mother, and integrated in to the zoo’s orangutan group.  Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal other than humans, and require maternal care until they are six to eight years old.

 

Posted in: Baby Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans

Happy Birthday, Tengku!

Tengku orangutan wearing hard hat

Tengku the Sumatran orangutan turns 28 this week.  He was born on July 3, 1986 and came to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in 1995, shortly after the opening of the zoo’s Indonesian Rain Forest.  During his nearly two decades here, Tengku has formed a special connection with zoo guests.  His social demeanor and playful behavior inspire people to care about orangutans in the wild.

What can you do to support Tengku and his wild cousins?  Here are some ideas from his birthday list:

  • Visit the zoo and spend some time in the Indonesian Rain Forest.  There you can learn more about the plight of orangutans in the wild.
  • Share your photos and stories of Tengku on social media to raise awareness about orangutan conservation.  You can connect with the Fort Wayne Children’s zoo on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Adopt an orangutan to help us provide healthy food, exceptional care, and veterinary needs for your animal for one whole year.
  • Splurge on an orangutan VIP Experience.  Go behind the scenes with Tengku and Melati and watch as they create a unique painting right before your eyes – then take the painting with you for a one-of-a-kind home accent.  (Ages 8 and older only – up to four guests per VIP experience)
  • Get educated about endangered orangutans and find out what you can do to help.  The Orangutan Conservancy, one of the zoo’s conservation partners, is a good resource.

Area Manager Tanisha Dunbar has been working with Tengku for the past 13 years.  She shared her thoughts regarding this very special primate, “It has been a joy working with him since 2001 and I am looking forward to working with him for many years to come.  Happy Birthday, Tengku!”

Below is a photo gallery of some of Tengku’s memorable moments.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans, Zoo News

Tengku Helps Wild Orangutans

orangutan

Tengku, the zoo’s male Sumatran orangutan, has something new to add to his resume:  International Researcher.  Tengku’s contribution to the research of Dr. Graham L. Banes, a biological anthropologist who visited the zoo last week, may help save these rare apes from the brink of extinction.

orangutan research zoo attraction

Dr. Banes shows some of his research to Tengku.

Dr. Banes studies the biodiversity of orangutans in zoos and in the wild and is building a database containing genetic information on every captive orangutan in the world.   

Tengku provided a blood sample so researchers can study his DNA as part of a four-generation study.  Zoo keepers had already trained him on this procedure via operant conditioning.  This video from 2012 shows the procedure:

Managed programs have existed in zoos for decades, but zoos are not the only participants in orangutan research.  Orphanages and rehabilitation centers, which are found on the “front lines” of orangutan conservation, are also included in this study.  Such facilities house orangutans who have been displaced, injured, or orphaned as a result of habitat destruction.

Dr. Banes explained that ensuring genetic biodiversity in zoos and rehabilitation centers is important.  A genetically diverse population decreases the likelihood of health problems and reduces the rate of infant mortality. 

A healthy zoo population will become essential if Sumatran orangutan populations continue to decline.  Orangutans have endured an 80-90% reduction in their natural habitat.  In other words, they are running out of places to live.  Their species is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN (source: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39780/0).   To compound this situation, proposed changes in Indonesian law further threaten the survival of orangutans in the wild.  According to Dr. Banes, “Preserves are being un-protected.” 

Tengku is helping his wild cousins, and so can you.  The AZA has prepared an online petition to the Indonesian government regarding the destruction of the 10-20% of rain forest cover that remains.  You can go to change.org to review and sign the petition.

The IUCN estimates that there are around 7,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild.  To put that number into perspective, consider that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis holds 70,000 people for NCAA basketball tournaments. 

The zoo’s conservation page lists resources for those wanting to get involved with the conservation of wild animals and wild places.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Conservation, Indonesian Rain Forest, Orangutans

Pumpkin Playtime

capuchin monkey and pumpkin

Animals and pumpkins may seem like an unlikely pairing, but they are a big hit at the zoo.  With so many pumpkins here for the Wild Zoo Halloween, zoo keepers are grabbing gourds to use as enrichment with the animals.

Enrichment is the practice of introducing novel foods and objects to provide mental and physical stimulation for the animals.  

Pumpkins can be used as toys, food, or a container for treats.  The dingoes’ pumpkins were covered in papier-mâché to make them extra-challenging to open.  The red pandas got pumpkins stuffed with bamboo leaves and grapes, and the capuchin monkeys received jack-o-lanterns with treats inside.  The orangutans simply cracked open the pumpkins and ate the seeds!

Enjoy these photos of zoo critters with their pumpkins – click on the photos to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Monkeys, Orangutans, Red Panda, Zoo News

6 Things You Never Knew About Orangutans

Tengku orangutan wearing hard hat

With the spotlight on Tara, our new orangutan, we’re sharing some orangutan insights this week!

1. Orangutans are lazy
It’s true – even wild orangutans sleep late and take lots of naps.  Because they are so intelligent, they know exactly which trees are fruiting.  They’ll go directly to the food source, eat, then rest.  No need to wander the forest all day searching for a meal! 

2. Orangutans make their beds
In the wild, orangutans arrange leaves and branches to make a comfy nest.  Check out this video of Tengku, our male orangutan, making a nest out of blankets and shredded paper.   

3. Orangutans are tree-dwellers
Wild orangutans rarely descend to the ground, and the same is true at the zoo.  The artificial trees and vines in Orangutan Valley allow our orangutans to move just as they would in the forest.   Tengku shows how it’s done in the video below. 

4. Orangutans use umbrellas
In the rain forest, orangutans hold big leaves above their heads when it rains.  At the zoo, our orangutans put blankets, hats, and paper bags on their heads.

5. Orangutans aren’t monkeys
Along with gorillas, chimpanzees, and gibbons, orangutans belong to the group of primates called apes.  Apes have bigger brains and are generally larger than monkeys.  The easiest way to tell them apart:  monkeys have tails, apes don’t.

6. Orangutans need our help
Found only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, orangutans are in trouble.  Sumatran orangutan populations have declined up to 80% since the 1950s, mainly because their habitat is being destroyed.  You can help by shopping responsibly for products that contain palm oil, which is grown in Sumatra and is found in many everyday products. Get a free mobile app to help with your shopping choices. 

Learn more about orangutans
  

Meet Tara, the zoo’s newest orangutan!

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Posted in: Orangutans

Tara the Orangutan Now on Exhibit

Tara the orangutan

Tara, the Sumatran orangutan who arrived at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo this spring, is ready to meet the public.  She will be in the orangutan exhibit now through Sunday.

“Tara is amazing,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “She has adapted very well to her new home.”

Tara has not yet been mixed with Tengku, the zoo’s 28-year-old male orangutan, or Melati, a 28-year-old female, so she will be alone in the exhibit through the weekend.  “We want Tara to become completely comfortable in the exhibit before being mixed with the other orangutans,” Selzer said.  So far, the three orangutans have had limited contact with each other through mesh panels behind the scenes.

“Our next step is to allow Tara to meet Melati face to face,” Selzer says.  That encounter will probably happen in the next few weeks behind the scenes, meaning that there could be days when no orangutans are in the exhibit.  After Tara and Melati get to know each other, Tengku will join them.

Tara, age 18, has a habit of climbing up to the skylights in the orangutan exhibit, so zoo guests will have to look carefully to see the petite red ape this weekend.

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April from the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo.  She can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

The zoo hopes that Tara and Tengku will someday produce offspring, but it is too early to predict when that might happen.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations. Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

Introducing Tara the Orangutan

Tara the orangutan

Tengku and Melati, the zoo’s Sumatran orangutans, are about to make a new friend:  Tara, a female orangutan, is the newest member of the orangutan family.

“Tara is full of personality,” says zoo keeper Angie Selzer, who cares for the orangutans.  “We’re thrilled to have her in Fort Wayne.”

Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April, and, after completing a routine 30-day quarantine period, is getting to know male orangutan Tengku, who turns 27 on July 3, and female Melati, age 28.  Introductions are taking place behind the scenes.  “We first allow the orangutans to see each other through mesh doors,” explains Selzer.  “Only after we are comfortable with their interactions will we let them meet face to face.” 

The introduction process could take a few months, Selzer says, so it could be awhile before zoo guests see Tara in the Orangutan Valley exhibit.  During the introduction period, Tengku and Melati will be allowed to move back and forth between the exhibit and the behind-the-scenes areas where Tara lives, so there could be times when no orangutans are in the exhibit.

Born at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tara is 18 years old, which is middle aged for an orangutan (the median life expectancy for female Sumatran orangutans is 32 years).  She moved to the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo in 2002. Both Tengku and Melati have lived in Fort Wayne since Orangutan Valley opened in 1995 in the Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit.

“Tara is an awesome orangutan,” says Selzer.  “The staff at the Columbus Zoo took excellent care of her.”  Selzer notes that Tara is already trained on several medical behaviors, such as presenting her arm for a blood draw, which make her daily management much more efficient.   

Tara can be distinguished from the other orangutans by her petite build and darker fur on her face, hands, and feet.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species and are managed in zoos by a Species Survival Plan (SSP), which seeks to maintain genetic diversity in the captive population.  These rare apes are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where their future is threatened by persistent habitat destruction as forests are converted to palm oil plantations, timber concessions, and mining operations.  Zoos could prove to be the last stronghold for this species, which some experts predict could become functionally extinct in the wild within 10 to 20 years.

Learn how you can help orangutans by making wise purchases of everyday items made with palm oil.

Learn more about Sumatran orangutans.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

 

Posted in: Conservation, Orangutans, Zoo News

Healthy Hearts for Orangutans

orangutan

Keeping animals healthy is a zoo keeper’s number one goal.  But because some health problems can remain unseen until it’s too late, zoos keepers turn to diagnostic tools for help.

Heart problems are a leading cause of death for both zoo-managed and wild orangutans and gorillas, so zoos have banded together to develop the Great Ape Heart Project, based at Zoo Atlanta.  The project is collecting data on orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas that will advance understanding of ape heart conditions. 

“This effort will help us understand what healthy ape hearts look like,” said Zoo Veterinarian Joe Smith, DVM, who serves as the veterinary advisor for the Orangutan Species Survival Plan and a member of the Great Ape Heart Project Executive Steering Committee.

At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, keepers conduct weekly ultrasounds on our two orangutans, Tengku (male) and Melati (female), assisted by  ultrasound technicians Sue Hansen and Kathy Rutschilling.  Ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure where a probe is held against the body, and sound waves emitted from the probe generate an image of structures within the body.  The ultrasound machine was donated by Lutheran Hospital. 

Keeper Angie Selzer explains that getting ultrasound images of orangutan hearts took months of training.  “First, we had to get the orangutans used to the big ultrasound machine,” she said.  The orangutans were already trained to present their chest to the keepers, so the next step was introducing the ultrasound probe and holding it against the chest.  “We started with a piece of PVC pipe with a cap on the end, then we switched to using the real probe,” Selzer said.

All procedures are conducted through heavy wire mesh to protect keepers from the orangutans, who are far stronger than humans of equal size. 

The orangutans are now comfortable with the routine procedure except for one aspect:  the clear gel applied on the end of the ultrasound probe.  “Tengku does not like the ultrasound gel at all,” Selzer said.  “He keeps a blanket nearby to wipe off his chest after each session.” 

After Dr. Dave Kaminskas, a local cardiologist, reads the ultrasounds, then the data is sent to the Great Ape Heart Project’s database, where it will help build a healthy future for apes – both in the wild and in zoos.

Read more about orangutans here.

Posted in: Orangutans