Your Toronto Zoo Welcomes Birth of Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan!

TORONTO, ON, Monday, April 11, 2022: Your Toronto Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of a critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, born Friday April 8 at 3:06 p.m. to mother Sekali. The day prior to the birth, Sekali was exhibiting signs of restlessness and discomfort. Keepers monitored her closely overnight and although she seemed to settle down and looked comfortable, it was noted that her eyes were open for a much larger portion of the night than usual.  In the morning, keepers noticed Sekali was showing increasing signs of discomfort, and her water broke at 11:30 a.m. Things progressed smoothly right through to the baby’s birth. Sekali’s maternal instincts kicked in right away: she immediately held the baby against her body, cleaned it, and showed concern whenever it vocalized. She even carefully repositioned the umbilical cord when shifting positions and thanks to the maternal training provided by Keepers, Sekali brought the baby up to the Keepers to let them get a close visual check a few hours after it was born – and identify the newborn as a male! 


This is the second offspring for twenty-nine-year-old Sekali, who gave birth to her son, Kembali, in 2006, and the first offspring for Budi, a fifteen-year old male. Both Sekali and Budi were born at the Toronto Zoo and were paired at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP). Participating in this SSP, coupled with direct support of conservation work in Sumatra, is part of the Toronto Zoo’s commitment to ensure this critically endangered species will survive for future generations. The Toronto Zoo currently houses the only Sumatran orangutans in Canada and, as part of the AZA Sumatran Orangutan SSP, thirteen orangutans have been raised at your Toronto Zoo since 1974. 


“We are incredibly excited to welcome this new addition to the Toronto Zoo family” said Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo. “This orangutan baby is an important contribution to a genetically healthy Sumatran orangutan population in human care. Meanwhile, Sumatran orangutans are under increasing pressure in the wild due to habitat loss and the palm oil crisis, which we are working with partners to address. We are proud to play an important role in the conservation of this amazing species.”  


At 243 days, Sekali’s pregnancy was a typical length for an orangutan – about a month shorter than in humans. Their babies are also much smaller than human babies, generally only 1.3 kgs – 2.3 kgs (3-5 pounds at birth)  which, in part, explains why female orangutans gain less than 4.5 kgs (10 lbs) during pregnancy!). In preparation for the birth, our Wildlife Care team set up cameras in the maternity holding area to monitor the mother-to-be 24 hours a day. Sekali has also been participating in training to encourage maternal behaviours, using a plastic cylinder as a substitute “baby.” The hope was that, by teaching her behaviours with the cylinder, Sekali would bring her baby up to areas accessible by Keepers, allowing them to visually examine the baby, provide additional nourishment, or administer vitamin supplements (such as Vitamin D drops) if needed.  


The newest addition to the Toronto Zoo Sumatran orangutan family is most timely, as the new outdoor orangutan habitat is in its finishing stages and is expected to open later this year. With the expanded space, supported by generous donations through the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy, the growing orangutan family will have more choice in their daily activities: they can stay inside to enjoy their familiar space, go outside to experience a wider range of sights and sounds, and travel around on special overhead lines to areas outside the new habitat. The new space will enrich the daily lives of the orangutans here at your Toronto Zoo, and has been designed to share the issues facing these critically endangered apes and inspire actions that people can do each and every day to help their survival in the wild.   

In 2017, the conservation status of Sumatran orangutans was upgraded from Endangered to Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN). Today, fewer than 15,000 Sumatran orangutans can be found in the wild. Approximately 95% of these orangutans live in the Greater Leuser Ecosystem on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and your Toronto Zoo actively supports conservation work for orangutans and other species in this fragile habitat. The world has lost an estimated 120,000 orangutans in the past decade, primarily due to habitat loss. Every day, acres and acres of the Sumatran rainforest – the orangutan’s natural habitat – is removed to make way for oil palm plantations.   

In addition to conservation research, the Toronto Zoo team supports Sumatran orangutan conservation efforts in the wild to help save and protect this critically endangered species. You can support Sekali, the rest of your Toronto Zoo’s orangutan family, and Sumatran orangutans in the wild by making a donation to the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy, or through the Adopt an Animal program. The Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy is a dedicated partner with the Toronto Zoo in the fight against extinction, and was established in 2019 to secure increased financial resources and support for the wildlife conservation work being carried out by the Toronto Zoo.


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