By Helen Le Caplain
This is the heart-warming moment a ‘smiling’ orangutan mum proudly showed off her baby to delighted zoo visitors.
Proud Sumatran orangutan Emma gently cradled her newborn and approached the enclosure window to show off her latest arrival.
Full-time mum Stephanie Mellor, 33, visited Chester Zoo just after Christmas with her three children Lillie, 8, Oliver, 6, and 20-month-old Sid when she captured the heartwarming moment.
Stephanie from Sandbach, Cheshire, said: “There was a big crowd around the window when we got to the enclosure.
“When we got up to the window there was the mum and baby – it was a total surprise.
“It was quite sweet the way the baby was looking up, and it looks like the mum is smiling at everyone.
“The way she’s smiling makes it look like she’s quite proud.
“It was really quite special, I felt very blessed to capture this beautiful moment.”
Stephanie went back to the window after the crowd had died down but by that time Emma had gone back to privately nursing her.
Stephanie said: “I had only managed to get that one quick snap but the time we went back to get more photos she had moved the baby – she’d obviously had enough of showing her off.”
The baby orangutan, who has yet to be sexed or named, was delivered safely by mum Emma after an eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy on December 18.
The baby is a major success story for the acclaimed international breeding programme for the highly threatened species.
Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with fewer than 6,500 estimated to be left in the wild, so every birth is important.
Nick Davis, Chester Zoo’s Deputy Curator of Mammals, said: “It is very early days, but the baby looks very healthy and is bonding well with mum.
“It is wonderful to have a tiny new infant in our family of stunning Sumatran orangutans.
“It’s now important that this fantastic new arrival helps draw some much-needed attention to the species.
“The Sumatran orangutan is under enormous pressure in the wild and, without urgent conservation work, it could tragically become the first great ape lost forever. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Sumatran orangutans are among the many species being pushed to the brink of extinction in South East Asia by, hunting, forest clearance and the planting of oil palm plantations, which are wiping out huge areas of rainforest.
There is intense demand for the oil, which features in thousands of household products in the UK from food to cleaning materials and cosmetics.
Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said: “Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are, sadly, at an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild as pressures grow on their fragile forest habitat.
“A successful and well managed conservation breeding programme may be critical to safeguarding the species in the future.
“Conservation is critical and we are right now fighting for these amazing animals in South East Asia – helping field workers in Borneo to restore depleted forests and supporting education work in schools and communities where the species occur.
“People can do their bit too. When shopping in the supermarket check labels to make sure products only contain sustainable palm oil. It sounds like a small thing but it can make a big, big difference.”