Rough start to life ends for Kecil the orangutan at Brookfield Zoo

kecilA 6 month old orang-utans rough start to life has ended with his arrival at Brookfield Zoo.

Kecil (pronounced Ka-cheel) is named after the Indonesian world for little. He was born on the 11th of January at the Toledo Zoo. Yasmin, the orang-utans mother has raised her own infants in the past but this time she had a difficult delivery leading her to not care for Kecil. Keepers at Toledo Zoo worked tirelessly to have them bond. Four months after he was born no progress had been made so keepers decided it was time to move him to another facility to be placed with a surrogate.

Kecil arrived at Milwaukee County Zoo where he began introductions with MJ his knew surrogate mum. They seemed to bond and keepers were hopeful it would progress further. Unfortunately Kecil and MJ never developed a good relationship which led to his move to Brookfield Zoo.

All these transitions were heavily considered and keepers say Kecil did well. Jay Petersen, curator of primates and carnivores for Brookfield Zoo said, ‘Kecil seems calm and adaptable to the changing situations in his young life. The moves don’t seem to have fazed him at all.’

His new mum Maggie is a 53 year old Bornean orangutan who has had previous experience with being a surrogate for abandoned infants. The pair have been spending lots of time together playing and often Kecil will sit in the crook of her arm.

Kecil is still young and requires milk. As such Maggie carries him to the fence to receive daily bottle feeds. Recently he has begun to explore Maggie’s food but has been eating baby cereal and banana.

kecilPetersen was optimistic about Kecil’s future, ‘Although it has been only a short time and we have a long road ahead of us, we are extremely optimistic due to Kecil and Maggie’s progress so far. Maggie is an easygoing and gentle orangutan. The two have been together since Kecil’s arrival, and Maggie has provided care and attention that he needs to receive from an orangutan.’

Maggie and Kecil have  a lot of bonding to do before going on exhibit in many months’ time. This will also allow him to become more agile so he will be safer in the enclosure. To allow people to experience Cecil’s journey to that point keepers have established a blog at Here you can access updates, photos and videos of Kecil and his new mom.

Kecil is important to a species which is being lost of a rate of 5,000 orangutans’ a year. Since 1990 the population of Bornean orangutans has halved.

Photo Credit: Chicago Zoological Society/ Jim Schulz

By Cale Russell is a testament to Cale’s commitment to the education of people around the world on the topic of animals and conservation, through the sharing of topical and newsworthy information.

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