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After having our hearts completely crushed by the scenes of a lone Oraguntan clinging to the sole remaining tree in a destroyed rainforest in A Life On Our Planet, Chester Zoo has blessed us with the news of their latest arrival – a healthy, Bornean orangutan who has surprised keepers with its arrival.
After an eight-and-a-half month-long pregnancy, mother Leia has welcomed a healthy little baby, but the birth came as quite the welcome surprise for those caring for her after a pregnancy test came back negative just months ago.
Critically endangered in the wild, the Bornean orangutan is usually found on the island of Borneo in Indonesia – however, it’s been estimated that as little as 55,000 of the species remain in the wild – making the arrival all the more special for keepers.
Chris Yarwood, a primate keeper at the zoo, said: “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.
“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 is one of the few zoos in Europe that cares for both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. These are critically endangered animals and, importantly, we’ve seen babies from both sub-species born in recent times. It just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world right now, life is carrying on as normal for the orangutans, which is really uplifting to see.”
Dr Nick Davis, the zoo’s Deputy Curator of Mammals, added: “Bornean orangutans are the largest arboreal mammals in the world and how fast their numbers are plummeting is frightening. They are victims of illegal hunting and habitat loss and are highly threatened by the unsustainable oil palm industry, which is having a devastating effect on the forests where they live.
“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. 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 programme is so, so important.”
Leia, baby and their follow orangutans at Chester Zoo are part of a vital international breeding programme, which works to conserve the species and protect it from extinction. In addition to protecting the species through breeding programmes, the zoo has also been working with local communities in Borneo, helping to educate on how to further protect the animals.