The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended the birth as part of its role in creating a sustainable managed population for this critically endangered species.
"Merah is an excellent and experienced mother," said Stephanie Braccini, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager, Great Apes. "She is carrying the infant, facilitating nursing, essentially doing everything right."
Prior to the birth, Merah's caretakers had conditioned her to allow voluntary ultrasound examinations by the Saint Louis Zoo veterinarians; these examinations allowed the team to proactively monitor the health and development of the baby during gestation. Merah and her baby continue to be monitored closely by a team of caretakers, veterinarians and a nutritionist.
This is the fifth baby for Merah, the grandmother of two and the great-grandmother of one. She was born in the Netherlands and became a first-time mother in 1982 to Badut, now deceased. Merah came to St. Louis from the Miami Metro Zoo, where in 1984 she became a mother to Talu, now deceased. Her third baby was "Sugriwa," a male, born at the Saint Louis Zoo in 1995. Sugriwa is now living at the Philadelphia Zoo. Rubih (RUBE-ee), 10, who was also born at the Saint Louis Zoo, lives with her mother, Cinta and another male orangutan, Robert B. The gestation period for an orangutan is between eight and nine months.
The orangutan family can be located in either their indoor habitat in Jungle of the Apes or in their outdoor habitat at Fragile Forest.
"Merah" (pronounced MEER-ah), a 45-year-old Sumatran orangutan, gave birth at about 8:30 p.m., Sunday, December 14, 2014, at Jungle of the Apes at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Mother and baby are doing well. The baby is a female. The father is Cinta (Chin-TA), 10, who came to St. Louis in 2012 from the San Diego Zoo. Since the first 30 days are the most important for mother and baby bonding, it may be a month or longer before the baby is available for public viewing.
Visitors were asked to bring in shower gifts for the orangutan family. Zookeepers were very touched by the generosity of St. Louisans. Thank you!
- 29 sheets, 57 towels, 35 blankets
- 12 Kong toys, 17 dvds
- 14 cups and bowls
- 4 giant Lego sets
- 1 stretchy dog toy
- 1 plush orangutan, 1 plush bunny
- 1 trash can
- 1200 paper lunch bags, 86 large grocery bags
Many of these items are used in the day-to-day care of our orangutans to provide extra comfort and enrichment. Some items may be shared with the proud chimpanzee and gorilla cousins. If you would like to contribute, see the wish list below.
- Heavy fleece blankets, sheets, towels
- Paper lunch bags or paper grocery bags
- DVDs – cartoons/nature shows
- Kong toys
- Gift cards: Otto Environmental, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Petco, PetSmart
- Strong plastic cups and bowls
- Jumbo Lego blocks
A total of 67,698 votes were submitted through multiple channels for the Zoo's Name the Baby Orangutan poll, which ran from Jan. 6-16, 2015. On Monday, Jan. 19, the winning name "Ginger" was unveiled by the orangutan family at a baby shower with animal enrichment activities at Jungle of the Apes.
The Zoo's Great Ape care team chose a few potential female names — Marigold, Lucy, Cranberry and Ginger — and invited the public to vote for their favorites.
Ginger won with 29,734 votes (43.9 percent) of the total votes cast at the Zoo's website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, or through ballots submitted at the Zoo's North Entrance Welcome Desk and postcards mailed directly to the Zoo.
Runner-up Lucy received 22,895 votes (33.8 percent); Marigold received 9,918 votes (14.7 percent); and Cranberry received 5,151 votes (7.6 percent).
Both orangutan species, one endemic to Borneo, the other endemic to Sumatra, are highly endangered due to an alarming rate of habitat loss. A global demand for palm oil has resulted in widespread deforestation and subsequent drastic declines in the number of orangutans that survive in the wild.
The Zoo's WildCare Institute supports Hutan, a grassroots nonprofit organization working to build innovative approaches to conserve orangutan and other wildlife populations in the forests of Sabah. In 1998, Hutan set up the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme, which has long conducted high quality research and conservation activities in Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo.
See what you can do to help orangutans.
Orangutans are in trouble in the wild. Their forest homes are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil plantations are responsible for the clearing of hundreds of thousands of acres of orangutan habitat. Learn more about palm oil, its effect on orangutans, and how you can help.
Proceeds from our Zoo Parents adoption program go to the care and feeding of the animals. Adopt an orangutan.