The Sumatran Orangutan is critically endangered with an estimated 14,600 left in the world. These animals are under pressure from habitat destruction and poaching. Though there are efforts to protect these majestic animals, the greatest hope of preserving the species is most likely through captive breeding programs.
According to zoo officials, there is new hope for the species. A little girl orangutan was recently born to proud parents at the Denver Zoo. The new-born, named, Cerah – which means Sunlight or bright in native Indonesian – will be introduced to the public within the next two weeks. The baby was referred to as a ‘honeymoon’ baby since she was born less than a year after her parents were set-up as a breeding pair.
The mother and baby were taken off exhibit in order to allow mother and child to bond properly without the interference of curious onlookers. This species is almost exclusively tree-dwelling with the females seldom leaving the safety of their trees. This is not an easy habitat to reproduce in captivity which makes it all the more vital that new mothers are given as much privacy as possible to help them bond appropriately and teach their babies how to adapt to their new surroundings.
There are three species of orangutans, with the Sumatran being smaller than their Bornean counterparts. They are also a lighter color with more of an orange tint to their fur. They also tend to form stronger bonds.
In the past, these great apes were found throughout Sumatra, but they are now concentrated in the Northern section of the country. There are nine separate colonies with an estimated 250 individual animals in each. Of those nine, only seven are listed as being a viable population with active reproduction taking place.
The biggest threat to this species was poaching for the illegal pet trade and from farmers who wanted to reclaim the forest for grazing herds. One of the reasons the species is so susceptible to extinction is its long interval for births. Mothers form one of the strongest bonds that exist between mother and baby outside of humans. Mothers will carry their babies in their arms or on their backs for the first five years. They will often continue to nurse their young until they are six or seven years old.
Females often will not reach breeding condition until age 17. Then they will spend the first eight years of their infant’s life together, even sleeping in the same nest with them. It is uncertain how long these gentle and intelligent apes live in the wild, but captive bred individuals have typically lived for 60 plus years. When protected, wild animals could reach age 70, but they tend to live only about 40 years.
These animals are known to be gentle and excellent with tool-making abilities. There have been no known attacks on humans by these large but benign creatures. It is only hoped that the new babies will be able to carry the species far into the future.
Writer Bio: Angela Mose
I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years. I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia. A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.