Indianapolis Zoo Celebrates First Orangutan Pregnancy

Coinciding with the annual celebration of Orangutan Caring Week, the Indianapolis Zoo announced today 22-year-old Sumatran orangutan Sirih’s pregnancy – the first for the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. Her pregnancy provides an important and impactful opportunity to engage, inspire and empower guests to take part in conservation efforts for these critically endangered great apes in the wild.

The Indianapolis Zoo is inviting guests to follow an orangutan through her pregnancy and will highlight exciting milestones in anticipation of the baby’s arrival – a significant success for Indianapolis and the zoo community. From veterinary care and changes in diet, to Sirih’s ultrasounds, the public will have the chance to join in as the Zoo prepares for the birth through monthly updates, “Ask About Sirih” live events, social media interactions and much more.

“One of our primary goals for the Center is to offer the orangutans as many social choices as possible, and an infant will only increase the richness of their environment,” said Dr. Rob Shumaker, the Indianapolis Zoo’s Supervising VP of Conservation, Science and Education. “Many of the female apes have never met a baby before, so this will be as new and remarkable for them as it will be for our Zoo visitors.”

The baby will be the second offspring for Sirih, who had a daughter in 2003 while she lived at the Frankfurt Zoo in Germany. Both mother and first time father, 14-year-old Basan, are Sumatran orangutans, a species listed as a critically endangered by the IUCN, with only about 6,500 left in the wild. Sirih and Basan were recommended as a breeding pair through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, which helps to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied AZA population.

Orangutans have the longest interbirth intervals of all land mammals, and mothers bond very closely with their offspring. After the birth, Sirih will spend the next seven to nine years in the mom role, while the baby learns what to eat, how to climb, build nests and socialize with the other apes in the Center.

When the Indianapolis Zoo began the process of creating the Center nearly eight years ago, the purpose spanned welfare, science and, most significantly, conservation.

“The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is a model for how a Midwest community can change the future of endangered species across the world,” said Mike Crowther, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo. “The Indianapolis community continues to embrace the orangutans at the Center and reforest their habitat in the wild. We’re excited to share this new phase of our journey with those who are helping us advance animal conservation both locally and globally.”

When visitors come to the Center not only are they introduced to nine charismatic apes, they also learn how to play a vital role in conservation.

The Zoo supports the work of Dr. Anne Russon in the Kutai National Park in East Kalimantan, Borneo. The Kutai Orangutan Project studies a critical population of orangutans living within the park.

Additionally, the Zoo funds reforestation and habitat improvements within the national park. Guests can find out more about the Kutai collaboration and help directly support these efforts by visiting the interactive kiosks inside the Center. To date, visitors have donated more than $52,200 to the project.

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