Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan Born at San Diego Zoo

It's a baby boy for mom Indah who last gave birth in 2014.

baby Sumatran orangutan born at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

It’s a bouncing, baby boy for Sumatran orangutan mom Indah at the San Diego Zoo. The 35-year-old great ape gave birth in early January to her third infant.

The 2-week-old male is named Kaja, after an island in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, that is home to rehabilitated orangutans before they are released in the wild. Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered. Kaja is the first orangutan born at the zoo since Indah gave birth to a daughter, Aisha, in 2014.

Female orangutans give birth to just one baby at a time about every three to five years.

“To witness the birth of such a majestic critically endangered animal is a remarkable experience and brings us hope for the future,” Erika Kohler, interim executive director of the San Diego Zoo, said in a statement.

“His birth increases the population by one and that is a necessary step in our ongoing efforts to gain a deeper understanding of orangutans so we can conserve the species where they live.”

The infant Kaja was found to be healthy, but his mother experienced some complications after birth, according to the zoo. Staff members reached out to experts in the community for assistance, including neonatal anesthesiologists and OB-GYN specialists.

Indah and Kaja are being watched closely by wildlife specialists, the zoo reports. Indah will be in her habitat occasionally while she is recovering.

“It was extremely rewarding to see the understanding and collaboration put forth by our talented team and community consultants to provide the necessary care for Indah and her infant,” Meg Sutherland-Smith, director of veterinary services at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, said in a statement. “We will continue to stay vigilant; and at the same time, remain hopeful.”

About Orangutans

baby sumatran orangutan

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Known for their characteristic red fur, orangutans spend most of their time in trees. They make nests in the trees where they sleep at night and rest during the day. Their name orangutan means "man of the forest" in the Malay language.

There are three species of orangutans: Sumatran, Bornean, and Tapanuli, all of which live in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. The Tapanuli orangutan was just announced in 2017. All three are classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

About a century ago, there were likely more than 230,000 orangutans total, reports the World Wildlife Fund. But now, according to the most recent population estimate from the IUCN, there are fewer than 14,000 Sumatran orangutans, 104,700 Bornean orangutans, and fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans. Populations for all three species are decreasing.

The drop in their populations is due to threats from habitat loss and defragmentation. They lose their homes as forests are cleared for palm oil plantations, road building, and logging. This habitat loss forces them closer to people, where they are often killed when they raid farmland for food. In some cases, adult orangutans are captured and killed and their offspring are taken and sold into the illegal wildlife trade.

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View Article Sources
  1. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, "San Diego Zoo Celebrates the Birth of a Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan Infant."

  2. WWF, "Orangutan Facts."

  3. IUCN Red List, "Orangutans."

  4. IUCN Red List, "Tapanuli Orangutan."

  5. IUCN Red List, "Sumatran Orangutan."

  6. IUCN Red List, "Bornean Orangutan."