Oregon zoo welcomes new baby orangutan

The zoo says the orangutan mother and baby appear to be doing well

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Spring is a time when many baby animals arrive and on Wednesday, the Oregon Zoo welcomed its newest member. 

The zoo’s 20-year-old Bornean orangutan Kitra gave birth to a new baby. The zoo says this birth is adding to the world population of the critically endangered species. 

“We’re all pretty excited about it,” said Kate Gilmore, who oversees the zoo’s primate area. “It’s great to see Kitra taking such good care of her baby. There’s still a lot that could happen, so we’re being very cautious and giving her as much quiet time as possible. But so far she seems to be taking to motherhood quite well.” 

Caregivers say the baby orangutan was born on April 13 at around 11 a.m. This is Kitra’s first baby and both she and the newborn are doing well in their behind-the-scenes maternity den. 

“We couldn’t ask for anything more,” said senior keeper Asaba Mukobi. “She pulled the baby close to her right away, and the baby appears to be strong and healthy.” 

The Oregon Zoo said it’s not uncommon for first-time orangutan moms to have issues with lactation and basic mothering skills. Caregivers hope Kitra’s experience watching other orangutan mothers might help with her knowledge and skills. In 2014, she observed another orangutan, Kera Wak, raise a baby at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. 

Kitra’s care team helped train her for voluntary ultrasounds and gave her stuffed animals to teach her how to hold her baby properly to nurse and how to present her baby to care staff once she feels ready, so they can check on the baby’s health and well-being. 

Caregivers won’t know if the newborn is male or female for a few weeks. Animal care staff are taking a hands-off approach to allow the new family time to bond. They are closely monitoring the pair to make sure everything goes well. 

“The first few days are especially critical. Our care staff and veterinary team have been dedicated to giving Kitra everything she needed for a successful birth. Thankfully, she hasn’t needed much help from us so far. She’s been doing a great job by herself,” Gilmore said. 

Animal care staff will determine when the mother and baby are ready for their public debut once the two are feeling comfortable and healthy. 

Orangutans have a gestation period of around 8.5 months and their babies typically weigh a little over 3 pounds at birth. Young orangutans are completely dependent on their mothers for food and getting around during their first two years of life. 

Kitra moved to the Oregon Zoo in 2015 from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. At the Oregon Zoo, she joined orangutan Bob, the baby’s father, who arrived from South Carolina’s Greenville Zoo the previous year. The moves were based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for orangutans. 

Orangutans are critically endangered, largely due to habitat loss driven by logging and the conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.