The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has a new orangutan, Tara! Tara was born at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico, eighteen years ago. She came to Fort Wayne from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio where she was trained to perform many important medical behaviors, which help zoo keepers keep Tara healthy. She’ll be joining orangutans Tengku and Melati in the zoo’s Indonesian Rainforest.
Tara arrived in Fort Wayne in April and had a routine 30-day quarantine period before she met Tengku and Melati. Now she’s getting to know them through mesh screens, and they will meet face to face once zoo keepers feel the orangutans are ready. You can tell which orangutan is Tara by looking at the size and fur color of these animals at the zoo. Tara has darker fur and is slightly smaller than Tengku and Melati. Orangutans also have a lot to say! They can make up to thirteen different sounds as well as communicate by smacking their lips. Orangutans can also see very well and in color. So, when you’re watching the orangutans in the Indonesian Rainforest, they’re also looking back and seeing you!
These orangutans are only found on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, but there are fewer remaining there because of habitat destruction for natural resources. The Sumatran orangutans are almost functionally extinct, which means that while there are still some of these rare orangutans remaining, there won’t be enough left to easily reproduce. These animals are one of the few apes that come from Asia rather than Africa.
The orangutans, the largest tree-living mammal in the world, normally eat seeds, nuts, and figs, but at the zoo they also eat oatmeal, special primate biscuits, and vegetables. Orangutans have long arms and like to swing through the trees. They can stand on only two legs, but they generally use their arms and legs to distribute their weight; males can weigh over 200 pounds. Humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans.
Today, Tara, Tengku, and Melati are getting to know each other in the main display area and a behind-the-scenes area. Visit the zoo often to see when all three are finally together.
Molly Zweig is a student at Indiana University Bloomington majoring in International Studies, Spanish, and Portuguese. Molly enjoys spending time with her friends and family, cooking, and traveling.