On every zoo trip when I was a child (and there were many... including well into my adulthood), my favorite, must-see-or-I-will-not-be-a-happy-camper animals to see were the monkeys and apes. Maybe it's because I believed I had a special connection with them, being playfully called a monkey by my family as most children are. Regardless, I loved seeing these primates and apes, spending way more than the alotted time in that portion of the zoo.
I'd like to think that we've always been lucky to have these mammals at whatever zoo I've gone to, but the truth is, it's not entirely about us. They're here for protection because many of them are endangared species. We're lucky to have zoos that invest so much in protecting their existence.
Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species, originating on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Only about 7,000 are left in existence, with about 320 of those being in zoos worldwide. An average of 15 baby Sumatran orangutans are born in zoos every year worldwide, and in 2014, Asmara was the first and one of only two to be born in North American zoos.
The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo invited us to see Asmara in her Indonesion Rain Forest Exhibit for one of the first times ever, and I was fortunate enough to witness this event as well as learn quite a bit about Asmara and her parents, Tara and Tengku.
The zoo staff explained as we waited to see baby Asmara, only 16 weeks old, that she would be holding on tightly to her mother, Tara. Baby Orangutans rarely leave their mothers sides this young. I was unsure of what to expect--I'd never seen a baby orangutan before. As the door opened and Tara slowly entered the habitat, I wasn't sure that Asmara was with her at all. As Tara moved closer to the windows into a nest, I could finally see Asmara. At only 6 pounds, Asmara is tiny! She clung tighly onto the left side of Tara.
The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo opens on April 25, and Asmara and Tara will both be free to roam the exhibit at that time, so you may be able to catch a glimpse of them alongside their exhibit-mates Tengku and Melati. Tara isn't one to hang out behind the scenes, so we think your chances of seeing both of them are pretty good!
So the truth is, we are lucky to have these apes and primates in our zoos to bewilder and amaze our children, but we're really most lucky that our zoos protect these species.
Thank you Fort Wayne Children's Zoo for all that you do to protect the Sumatran orangutans and countless other species.