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Rare Orangutan Born at County's Henry Vilas Zoo

For more information contact:

Jim Hubing, interim zoo director, 266-4708
Sharyn Wisniewski, 267-8823


Issued By: County Executive
View only releases from County Executive
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announces that an extremely rare Bornean orangutan has been born at the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo. The father, Teriang, and mother, B.B., are both 30 years old. Both baby and mom are doing well, according to zoo interim director Jim Hubing.

[The carefully monitored birth took place February 7. Announcement was delayed until zoo officials could determine if the mother and infant would bond or if the infant would have to be transferred to a specialized nursery.]

The Henry Vilas Zoo orangutan birth is part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding and conservation program, which is managed by the American Zoo & Aquarium Association, the accreditation organization for zoos and aquariums.

Only two SSP orangutans were born last year. The head of the Orangutan SSP, Lori Perkins, Zoo Atlanta, states "Bornean Orangutans are our most critical focus. This birth is especially important. It's the best news possible!"

"The birth of this rare orangutan is a great gift not only to Dane County, but to the world," said Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. "We are very fortunate to have a zoo of such high caliber right at our doorstep," said Falk.

In anticipation of the coming orangutan birth, Henry Vilas Zoo staff worked closely with the Brookfield and Memphis Zoos' primate centers and the UW School of Veterinary Medicine to complete preparations for birthing. Vitamin supplements, ultrasound examinations, operant conditioning training using nursing bottles, dolls and videos of orangutans giving birth were used to get ready.

Habitat was improved by using natural bedding material for ground nests. Elevated hammock-type sleeping nests were made by weaving fire hoses together. Infrared cameras were used to monitor the orangutans in their sleeping areas.

Gestation is 8 ½ months, and babies weigh 3 ½ to 4 pounds. At birth, infants are capable of grasping their mother's hair and completely supporting their own weight. Infants learn what to eat by observing their mothers, eating particles of food left on their mother's coat.

Babies stay small for many years, depending on their mothers for nurturing. Not as social as other great apes, a bond between a female and her most recent offspring continues well past the three-year nursing period.

"Orangutans are generally good mothers, being very gentle and loving. B.B. is especially attentive, never leaving her baby," said zoo director Hubing. "She either holds or places her baby on top of her head as she moves about."

The largest tree-dwelling animals, orangutans are the most human-like in appearance of all primates. They live on fruits and vegetables, foraging in the tropical rainforest and lowland swamp. Standing five feet tall and weighing over 200 pounds, orangutans have great strength and agility. They can hang from one arm and rotate 360 degrees.

Orangutan is a Malay word meaning "person of the forest." There are two species, Sumatran and Bornean, only found in the wild on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Orangutans are an endangered species. Their habitat continues to be threatened by logging and adult females are killed to obtain babies for pet traders.

Welcoming and naming ceremonies for the baby orangutan will be announced soon.


NOTE: Zoo Director Jim Hubing has photos on file of the orangutan baby. You may contact him for a copy.
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