Henry Vilas Zoo in Dane County, Wisconsin, USA has unveiled their new Bornean orangutan which was born to parents Kawan and Datu on April 9th. The newborn was named Keju (“kay-joo) which means “cheese” in Malay.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said, “We are excited to have Keju as part of our zoo family.” The young orangutans name pays homage to the cheese making culture that Wisconsin is known for.
Unfortunately staff have had to take Keju for hand-rearing as mother, Kawan did not exhibit enough maternal care for the infant. Initially it looked good as she picked him up and cleaned him off but this did not continue.
Keepers had put large amounts of training into preparing Kawan for motherhood. The taught her to participate in ultrasounds, accept injections and retrieve and trade objects. This training is continuing in the hope that Kawan will be able to be reunited with Keju again. He would normally spend the first year of his life clinging to mum and keepers would like to give Keju this opportunity.
“We are so fortunate to have a healthy mother and infant,” explained Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “Teaching Kawan appropriate infant care will help ensure a good bond between her and Keju. Our caregivers model the behaviour of an orangutan to help Keju grow strong and ready for life with mom.”
Keepers are concentrating on keeping Keju’s hand rearing experience as close to what Kawan would do as possible. While carrying Keju around they wear a special vest which has fleece strips for him to grip. They also groom him, move around and change the position of the infant.
The zoo is consulting with top experts from around North America. They are also working with the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) which manages America’s gorilla population to keep it genetically diverse.
Both Bornean orangutans like Keju and his cousins the Sumatran orangutans are threatened in the wild. Less than 1,500 Bornean orangutans remain in the wild. Their forest home is being decimated as palm oil plantations spread throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. You can learn more about palm oil here – Palm Oil | The Animal Facts
Currently the zoo is unaware of when Keju will be on exhibit.
Photo Credit: Henry Vilas Zoo