Wild on WANE: Baby Orangutan

Asmara the baby Sumatran orangutan, shown with her mother Tara, will be a major attraction this summer at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Last November, the Fort Wayne Children Zoo went from having 3 Sumatran Orangutans to 4 when baby Asmara was born. It was an important birth, not just for the zoo, but for the species. They’re critically endangered. In total, there are only about 7,000 of them left on the island of Sumatra, which is the only place in the wild that they are found. There are only about 250 of them in zoos across the country. Last year, Asmara was one of only 2 baby Sumatran Orangutans born in the U.S.

Since the Asmara is just as susceptible to colds and diseases as human babies, the zookeepers have been very hands off. But mom, Tara, has been a terrific parent. She started nursing about a day after the baby was born and has been taking great care of her ever since. Zookeepers have noted that she is a little more cautious climbing around with the baby clinging on to her pretty tightly.

Tengku, on the other hand, won’t be winning a “Dad of the year” award. According to Zookeepers, he’s only touched the baby once with his finger. But, that is normal in the wild. Sumatran orangutans are solitary, so the father has no part in raising the baby. In fact, he’s typically not even around when the baby is born.

With a newborn baby around, the zoo has taken some extra steps to make sure she’s healthy and safe, including baby-proof enrichment activities and putting bales of straw down on the bottom of the habitat just in case the baby would fall. Luckily, that has not happened.

Although the Zoo had to say goodbye to the baby red panda that was born last year, Asmara won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Sumatran orangutans are actually the slowest-growing primates next to humans and usually aren’t full grown until they’re about 9 or 10. Asmara will be here in Fort Wayne for years to come, and she grows really slowly so you’ll have more than one opportunity to see her while she’s tiny!

Make sure you stop by the Indonesian Rainforest to check out this beautiful baby during the Zoo’s 50th season!

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