A 2-week-old female Bornean orangutan born at Brookfield Zoo on December 20 made her official public debut today, January 3, at the zoo’s Tropic World: Asia habitat and can be seen on most mornings. Since her birth, the unnamed infant and her mother, Sophia, 35, have been bonding behind the scenes and being monitored by animal care staff to ensure that she is healthy and meeting crucial developmental milestones. This is Sophia’s sixth offspring and the fourth of Ben, the sire.
Orangutans, a critically endangered species, once lived in much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced due to deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and poaching. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Bornean orangutan population has declined by more than 60 percent between 1950 and 2010, and a further 22 percent decrease is projected through 2025.
The Chicago Zoological Society is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for the species. The program manages the breeding of orangutans in zoos to maintain a healthy, self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. The pairing of Sophia and Ben was based on a recommendation by the Orangutan SSP. Currently, 94 Bornean orangutans and 87 Sumatran orangutans live in North American zoos.