Orphaned Orangutan Adopted By New Mum

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: August 20, 2021 11:20 pm

Orangutan Orphan Woodland Park Zoo

Felicity and Oceane the orphaned orangutan rest together on a branch.

Photo Credit: HUTAN

It’s a heartwarming moment witnessed in the wild for the first time as an orangutan adopted an orphaned infant. A 5 year old orangutan infant, Oceane tragically lost her mother but has since been adopted by 14 year old female Felicity.

The discovery was made by charity HUTAN and shared by their conservation partner Woodland Park Zoo. They have been studying orangutans in Borneo for a number of years. The sighting was made by Marc Ancrenaz, Scientific Director for HUTAN.

“Jenny was the first wild female orangutan that I met when we created the HUTAN study site in 1998. Over more than 22 years, she led us to discover her forest kingdom and her way of life. In early 2020, Jenny’s health deteriorated rapidly, but her 5-year-old daughter Oceane remained very healthy, sometimes even helping her mum break branches to finish her night nest.” 

“In July, Jenny took her last breath and passed away peacefully. We were pretty concerned about the chances of Oceane’s survival, so we decided to follow Oceane to document what would happen to her,” said Ancrenaz.

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Ancrenaz continued, “Several female orangutans live at our study site, including Felicity, who was about 14 years old at this time. In the forest, we soon realized that Oceane started to follow Felicity around. Felicity had also lost her mum, Juliana, two years before. In the past, Jenny and Juliana would sometimes forage together in the same tree for hours, giving Felicity and Oceane the opportunity to play together for a short time. Maybe thanks to these bonds formed when Oceane was just a baby, Felicity decided not to chase Oceane away when she first approached her.”

“The two females kept some distance for the first few weeks, as all unrelated orangutans usually do in the forest. However, over time, we realized that Oceane would spend more and more time close to Felicity and would try to shadow her movements. One day, Felicity grasped Oceane and carried her to cross a gap in the trees. Since then, the two females became inseparable. They share the same nest at night, and very often, Felicity carries Oceane from one tree to the next. Their movements are coordinated, and they keep in constant contact during the day.” 

“What we are witnessing at the HUTAN study site in Kinabatangan is new. Since Felicity has no baby yet, she may have adopted Oceane to learn about the mother’s skills necessary to raise a baby. Although adoption is a known phenomenon with orangutans living under human care, it has never been reported with wild individuals,” finished Ancrenaz.  

Visitors of Woodland Park Zoo support wildlife conservation and animal care.

Orangutan Orphan Woodland Park Zoo

Felicity and Oceane the orangutans hanging together in a tree.

Photo Credit: HUTAN

Learn more about Orangutans here – Orangutan Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about HUTAN on their website – HUTAN

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