Zoo Orangutan Who Gave Birth After Negative Pregnancy Test Is Inseparable from Her Surprise Baby
This baby knows how to make an entrance!
The Chester Zoo recently welcomed a critically-endangered Bornean orangutan baby, a joyous and somewhat shocking event. The new arrival took keepers at the English zoo by surprise because the baby's mom, Leia, took a pregnancy test and received negative results just months before the birth. According to the Chester Zoo, a typical orangutan pregnancy lasts about eight and a half months, so the results of the test should've come back positive.
"The pregnancy tests we had 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," Chris Yarwood, a primate keeper at the zoo, said in a statement.
Even though the zoo wasn't fully prepared for the birth, the baby's arrival on June 18 went smoothly. The zoo says the little orangutan is "bright and alert," and feeding well. Leia took to her new baby instantly and is very protective of her child. The new mom carries her kid everywhere and is careful about showing off the adorable baby too much. Keepers were only recently able to take a few photos of Leia and her unnamed baby together.
"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," Yarwood shared, adding that this is Leia's second baby and that the primate was a "fab" mom the first time too.
The surprise appearance of this baby orangutan is a welcomed event for animal lovers beyond the zoo. Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction, and palm
oil plantations, the species is at the brink of extinction with an estimated 55,000 wild Bornean orangutans left on the island of Borneo in Indonesia — the only place the species can be found in the wild. Every new Bornean orangutan arrival helps conserve the genetic diversity of this species and bolster the primate's dwindling population.
"These magnificent animals are being pushed to the very edge of existence and it really could be the case that we soon lose them forever," Dr. Nick Davis, the zoo’s deputy curator of mammals, said in a statement. "It’s absolutely vital therefore that there’s a sustainable population of Bornean orangutans in the world’s progressive zoos — every addition to the European endangered species breeding program is so, so important."
Along with their orangutan breeding program, the Chester Zoo is also directly assisting orangutans in the wild by working with conservation partner HUTAN to build bridges between fragmented areas of the Indonesian forest, so wild orangutans can navigate those areas safely. The zoo is also researching the numerous ways that palm oil plantations have affected the areas orangutans call home in an effort to make life better for the primates.
"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," Dr. Davis added. "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."
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