Orangutans are considered critically endangered, but the species just got another member to their community after an orangutan gave birth at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
The zoo announced Tuesday the birth of a male Bornean orangutan. The baby monkey’s mother, Batang, gave birth Monday at 8:25 p.m. at the zoo.
Following the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, animal care staff mated Batang with another male, Kyle, in January and after giving the new mother a human pregnancy test and ultrasound, the zoo discovered Batang successfully conceived on Feb. 2. It wasn’t until June when the zoo officially announced the orangutan’s pregnancy during a Facebook Live broadcast of an ultrasound.
The Great Ape House has been closed to give Batang a quiet and comfortable place to ease into motherhood. Because orangutans are an endangered species, the zoo gave Batang parental training in an effort to preserve a baby orangutan’s survival under her care. During her training, which started three years ago, Batang learned how to hold a baby upright, hand a baby over to zookeepers for feedings and how to put a baby in a specific box upon command.
Animal care staff say they are hopeful the newborn will survive. They have been watching both Batang and her baby since Monday night.
This is the first orangutan birth the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has seen in 25 years.
“Each and every birth of a critically endangered species is significant, but it is all the more exciting and this is a historic moment for our Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” Meredith Bastain, curator of primates and member of the Orangutan SSP Steering Committee, said in a statement. “I am very proud of Batang and my team. Ever since we received the breeding recommendation, they have dedicated themselves to preparing Batang for motherhood. I look forward to watching the infant experience everything for the first time—especially meeting the other orangutans and going outside for the first time with Batang.”
The birth of Batang’s son is especially rewarding for the Bornean orangutan species. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Bornean species is estimated to be down to 54,000 orangutans, whereas the other orangutan species, Sumatran, only accounts for roughly 6,6000 apes.