The Big 5-0 is a big deal in the human world and it’s an even bigger deal in the orangutan world. If you visited the zoo recently and saw a birthday greeting for an orangutan you didn’t recognize that’s because we were celebrating the fact that Tara’s grandmother Toba turned 50 July 2! Toba lives at the Oklahoma City Zoo and is the third oldest orangutan in any North American Zoo and we wanted to wish her a happy birthday!
Each endangered species in zoos are managed by a Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Orangutan SSP (www.orangutanssp.org) has detailed information on each orangutan and their genetics and breeding recommendations are based on that information. We have a family tree for almost each individual! It’s because of the great work of the Orangutan SSP’s studbook keeper Megan Elder that we know that Toba has had 5 offspring that are all still living at zoos around North America. Those 5 offspring have given Toba 6 orangutan grandbabies (Tara) and one orangutan great-grandbaby, our very own Asmara!
Orangutans in their natural environment can typically live to be between their mid-thirties for males and mid-forties for females. Because of the great accomplishments in positive reinforcement training and vet care, female orangutans in zoos can live to be 50-55 and males 35-45 years old. There is even a female orangutan in Australia that is 60! ( http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-27/perth-zoo-sumatran-orangutan-puan-named-worlds-oldest/7969328)
Orangutans have the second longest childhood of any primate; humans are the only ones that stay with their parents longer. Asmara will stay close to mom Tara until she’s at least 6-8 years old and will not be full grown until she’s 10-12, wild orangutans are no different. Because of that long childhood, orangutans only have babies every 6 -8 years which makes saving them even more important. The lush rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo are being cut down faster than any orangutan can reproduce which doesn’t bode well for these amazing animals. You can find out more here – http://www.orangutanssp.org/conservation.html