The RainForest at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has a very special new resident. A baby Bornean orangutan was born on October 5, and the Zoo is eagerly awaiting the chance to introduce it to the public. It's the first orangutan birth at the Zoo since 2006.
The baby orangutan, whose gender and name have yet to be determined, was born off exhibit to first-time mom, Kera Wak, 16, and dad, Tiram, 28. The baby is Tiram's fifth offspring. It is the fourth orangutan born at the Zoo since The RainForest opened in 1992.
The Zoo's Animal Care staff have been giving the new mom and her baby plenty of time to bond and are ready to begin the process of acclimating the rest of the orangutan troop to the newcomer.
"So far our new mom has been doing a great job with the baby," said Executive Zoo Director Dr. Chris Kuhar. "The baby seems to be very healthy and we're hoping to bring them on exhibit in a few weeks following the introduction process with the rest of the troop."
Kera Wak has been in Cleveland since 2000. Tiram arrived in 1994. The baby brings the Zoo's troop of orangutans up to five, including females Kayla and Kitra.
Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) are endangered and found in the rainforests of Borneo, an island in Southeast Asia. Adult males can grow up to 5.5 feet and can weigh up to 317 pounds. Their legs are relatively short and weak, while their arms are powerful with a spread of approximately 8.25 feet. Zoo visitors can expect to see these active animals using the assets of their exhibit for climbing, swinging and general playful behavior.
The Zoo participates in the Bornean orangutan Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Species Survival Plans are cooperative breeding and management groups for endangered or threatened species including black rhinos, African elephants, lowland gorillas and Amur tigers. SSPs identify population management goals and make recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied population. The new baby is a very significant birth as there are only 75 Bornean orangutans in 21 different institutions in North America.
Orangutan populations are declining, mainly due to the deforestation of their habitat for agricultural uses such as palm oil plantations. Palm oil is a very common ingredient in candy, snack foods, cosmetics and many other products. Worldwide demand for palm oil is soaring and palm oil plantations are the leading cause of rainforest deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. Some companies however, are committed to using only palm oil derived from sustainable farming operations in their products. Shoppers can visit clevelandmetroparks.com/zoo/palm-oil.aspx and download a "Best Choices" shopping guide to find out which manufacturers are part of the growing movement to end the palm oil crisis and help save wildlife and wild places for future generations.
The Zoo and the Cleveland Zoological Society support several ongoing orangutan conservation projects including the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.