Gladys Porter Zoo staff are thrilled to announce that Dodie, the Zoo’s 46-year-old Sumatran orangutan, gave birth to a healthy baby girl on July 19 at 3:00 a.m. Both mom and baby are doing well. Presently, they can be seen together on exhibit between 9:00 and 10:30 am. Their time outdoors will be gradually increased as the newborn adapts to outdoor temperatures.
This is Dodie’s fourth baby. She is an experienced and attentive mother so she easily transitioned into her new maternal duties. The father is Mango, a 31-year-old Sumatran orangutan who came to us on a breeding loan from the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, Kansas. Dodie is also the mother of Kade, an adolescent female, who presently resides here with Dodie, Mango and the new baby.
For now, as Dodie and her offspring are establishing a strong bond, Kade has temporarily been restricted from full access to the baby. In the coming days, staff will gradually allow Kade to get fully acquainted, giving her a guarded opportunity to step into her important new role as big sister.
“Kade, like many children, showed a bit of jealousy when Dodie first gave birth,” said Walter DuPree, the Zoo’s Curator of Mammals. “So, we were a little concerned about giving her full access to her mother and the infant. We didn’t see aggression, but were concerned about mischief. Kade now seems to be adjusting to the arrival of her little sister, and it shouldn’t be long before Dodie, Kade, and the baby will be a family unit.”
In the wild, female adolescents will help their mothers care for young. In the process, they learn important maternal skills that are of great benefit when they later have to raise their own babies. Orangutans are some of the most dedicated mothers in the animal kingdom. In the wild, young orangutans will stay with their mothers for up to seven years, as they learn the skills they need to survive on their own. This includes where to find food, how to build nests, and how to raise young.
The Gladys Porter Zoo has had a long history with orangutans. In its 52-year history, there have been 25 successful orangutan births. The Zoo was the first on record to perform a cesarean section on a great ape. The historic procedure was done on a female orangutan in 1970 by a local obstetrician and the late Don Farst, DVM, the Zoo’s previous veterinarian, and then, director.
Sumatran orangutans are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their largest threat is habitat loss due large-scale conversion of forest to palm oil plantations, commercial logging, and farming.