Baby, oh, baby!

October 22, 2008 5:17:32 PM PDT
Ben and Sophia have a new baby girl. The five pound, red-haired beauty is already drawing national attention. Orangutan births are getting to be very rare. So it's big news about a special delivery at Brookfield Zoo's Tropic World Asia. On October 6th, 27-year-old Bornean orangutan Sophia gave birth to a beautiful little baby girl. It's not that orangutan births don't happen at all in captivity, it's just that they don't happen very often.

"This baby is so important because it's only the 2nd this year in a North American Zoo and it's been six years since we've had a baby here," said Nava Greenblatt, Lead Keeper "Tropic World Asia."

There aren't many orangutan births because the baby remains dependent upon the mother for five years or more. Therefore new births happen only every six years or so. By the way, the new baby's father is called Ben and there are also two siblings- sister Mei, 10; and brother, Denda, 6.

"She's doing great. She's only two weeks old and she's strong and healthy," said Greenblatt.

This baby girl's future if very bright at Brookfield Zoo. But in the wild, it's a different story for orangutans, who are disappearing at a frightening rate.

"Yes, unfortunately palm oil is in high demand now and forests are being cleared in order to grow more palm oil. It's in all of our foods," said Greenblatt.

Since 1990, the orangutan population in the rain forests of Sumatra and Borneo has declined by 50 percent. Five thousand orangs die every year. The species is considered highly endangered.

"We're thinking that by 2025 there might not be any more wild orangutans," said Greenblatt.

The zoo is trying to draw attention to the plight of the wild orangutan by displaying information about their fate.

The baby can be seen on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays until about 12:45 p.m. with her mom, Sophia, 27; father, Ben, 30; half sister, Mei, 10; and brother, Denda, 6, in the Asia section of Tropic World. Brookfield Zoo's two other orangutan groups, each with two individuals, are rotated on exhibit when the family group is off exhibit. Those who are not able to see the new addition can view video and photos of her at www.CZS.org.


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