Adelaide Zoo’s orangutan Karta is set to have a baby this November. The orangutan has lost 5 babies in the past so zookeepers are hoping for greater success this time.
Orginally keepers believed that she was an inexperienced or a bad mother. In 2011 though keepers discovered it was her anatomy which caused these deaths. It turned out her nipples were too small for the baby to feed from. This meant a supplementary feeding plan could be developed to help with the next birth.
These plans were developed for her pregnancy in 2013 but once again tragedy struck. The baby was born with its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck which was backed up as the cause of death by a post-mortem.
Keepers are excited that she has the opportunity to become a mother again as primate keeper Jodie Ellen shared. She said ‘We’re extremely pleased Karta is pregnant and has the opportunity to become a mum again, something we believe she greatly deserves.’
‘At this point we believe Karta is physically, mentally and emotionally ready to try again and we ask the community for support and understanding as we head into the next part of this journey.’
The discovered the issue in 2011 as Jodie shared. ‘When we delved deeper into our research, we discovered her only full sibling, a sister at Denver Zoo in Colorado had the same problem and zoo keepers there had to supplement feed her infant in order for it to survive.’
Training has begun in the hope she will be a successful mother. ‘With the impending birth we have doubled our efforts and begun a rigorous training program both for supplementary feeding and ultrasound training. We also have a group of dedicated staff that will form the primary care team and will be on call 24 hours a day once the baby arrives.’
With only 6,300 orangutans left in the wild the baby will be a welcome addition for the critically endangered species.
The life sciences manage at Adelaide Zoo Peter Clark explained that, ‘Estimates show that if something isn’t done to protect the orangutans’ habitat they’ll be extinct in the wild in 10 years’ time.’
The Sumatran orangutan is facing extinction due to deforestation, the planting of palm oil trees and a range of other threats. Currently an estimated 50 orangurans are being lost every week in their wild home of Sumatra.
Clark said, ‘We hope Karta’s baby will act as an ambassador for the species, building awareness for the plight of orangutans world-wide. Humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans so it’s hard for the public not to feel a connection to these amazing animals.’
Find out more on palm oil and the effect it is having on orang-utans and other species here: Palm Oil