Friday, September 4, 2009

Newborn Great Ape Expected At Zoo Atlanta

Come spring, North America’s foremost collection of orangutans may be hearing the cries of a brand-new redhead. Miri, a 17-year-old Bornean orangutan at Zoo Atlanta, is believed to be expecting her second infant. While conclusive tests have not yet been conducted, the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams suspect that Miri is pregnant based on visible swelling of her external reproductive areas. Orangutan gestation is 235 to 270 days, suggesting a March or April delivery.

Miri and her mate, 16-year-old Sulango, have one offspring, Satu. Five-year-old Satu was the first Bornean orangutan born at Zoo Atlanta and remains with his mother. The mother/infant bond is particularly strong in orangutans, which are second only to humans in duration of dependent childhood.

Zoo Atlanta houses the nation’s largest zoological collection of orangutans, with 10 individuals living in separate family groups. Lori Perkins, Director of Animal Programs, serves as chair of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) and recently hosted a national consortium of animal care and veterinary experts at the annual Orangutan SSP Husbandry Workshop held at Zoo Atlanta.

Native to the island of Borneo in Indonesia, Bornean orangutans are endangered due to habitat loss, over-harvesting of timber and human encroachment. Bornean orangutans are more numerous than their critically endangered Sumatran counterparts, also represented at Zoo Atlanta, but experts predict that both could be extinct in 10 years without targeted conservation efforts.

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