Endangered Bornean Orangutan Born At Chester Zoo

Story By: Nina LadevaSub-EditorJoana O. Mihajlovska,  Agency: Clipzilla

Chester Zoo is celebrating the birth of this critically-endangered Bornean orangutan infant.

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

Employees at Chester Zoo in Cheshire were surprised when mother Leia was confirmed to be pregnant after testing negative just months before.

Orangutans are typically pregnant for 259 days which is eight and a half months.

Zookeepers said the new arrival is “bright and alert” and suckling well from mum Leia, who is incredibly protective of her new baby.

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.

Threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction, and the loss of much of their forest home to palm oil plantations, the species has been pushed to the brink of existence.

Recent estimates suggest as few as 55,000 Bornean orangutans live on the island of Borneo, the only place they can be found in the wild.

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

With a huge population decline, the orangutans at Chester Zoo are part of a vital international breeding programme to help conserve the species.

Primate zookeeper Chris Yarwood said: “The pregnancy tests we carried out on Leia in the months prior to the birth had actually returned negative results.

“It was, therefore, a wonderful surprise to arrive one morning to see her protectively cradling a beautiful new arrival.

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

“Leia enjoys spending lots of time alone with her baby and has so far been quite shy about showing it off. She always keeps it really close to her and so we’ve not yet been able to clearly determine what the gender of the infant is.

“What we are sure of though, is that the baby is bright, alert, and suckling well from mum and has developed well over the last couple of months. This is Leia’s second baby. She’s a great mum and is doing a fab job once again.”

Chester Zoo is working with conservation partners HUTAN in a bid to protect wild orangutans in Borneo.

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

Conservationists have been carrying out research in the Kinabatangan, home to one of the largest populations in the Sabah region of the island, to better understand how orangutans are adapting to the increase in oil palm plantations and the new landscapes they have created.

Dr Nick Davis, the zoo’s Deputy Curator of Mammals, said: “There’s still a huge need to tackle the excessive deforestation in Borneo and show people everywhere that they can make a difference to the long-term survival of orangutans.

“We really hope that Leia’s new baby helps to further highlight how simple everyday choices, like choosing products which contain only sustainably sourced palm oil, can have a massive impact on the future of these remarkable animals.”

Chester Zoo/Newsflash

Chester Zoo is campaigning against the use of unsustainable palm oil in household and food items, and working with governmental organisations and industries to adopt Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) practices.

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