Asmara, a 16-week old Sumatran orangutan at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, went into Orangutan Valley for the first time last week. Until now, Asmara and her mother, Tara, have been living in an off-exhibit bedroom adjacent to the main exhibit.
On their first day in the exhibit, Asmara clung tightly to her mother as Tara explored high up in the trees. Zoo keeper Angie Selzer watched nervously, buy all went well. “Tara climbed very high right away, but Asmara clung tightly just like she would in the wild,” she said.
Prior to the big day, the exhibit underwent extensive baby-proofing. Zoo keepers covered the floor with soft straw and checked the trees, walls, and vines for potential safety issues. The City of Fort Wayne’s tree crews even got involved, helping to reinforce the vines and hammocks.
Will you get to see Tara and Asmara when the zoo opens on April 25? Zoo keepers are working toward that goal. Indonesian Rain Forest area manager Tanisha Dunbar explained, “The goal is to mix all four of our orangutans behind-the-scenes, and once they’re comfortable, we’ll let them all go out on exhibit together,” said Dunbar. “And they always have a choice. They can choose whether or not to go out each morning, although Tara’s never been one to stay behind-the-scenes.”
Born on November 22 to Tara and her mate, Tengku, Asmara is important to the future of Sumatran orangutans, which are Critically Endangered. 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: