By Mike Jones
Little Ombak won’t let go of his mum – but zookeepers are unsure about his father.
The rare male Sumatran Orangutan was born at Basel Zoo on March 4th and 17 year old mother Kila hasn’t let him out of her sight.
But keepers are baffled on who the father is as she shares her enclosure with male Orangutans – Bagus, 17-year-old Vendel and 13-year-old Budi – all who may be her father.
They now plan to carry out a paternity test to determine who is the right father.
Kila lost her mother at 9-years-old she “adopted” her younger sister, Maia, who also lives at Basel Zoo.
When Kila first arrived at the Zoo from Leipzig in 2012, keepers described her as “A little minx: nothing could frighten her and she was always the first too try out something new.”
However the first time mother has become very cautious since the birth of her little boy and keeps herself isolated in confusing situations.
Kila does like to show off baby Ombak to the Zoo keepers and allows vets to take a look at him, but only if she gets a reward.
The little bundle of joy is still entirely dependent on his mother and clings to her fur. This is a reflex vital for new-born Orangutans in the wild as their mothers climb high up in the tops of the tropical rainforest.
Unlike Chimpanzees or Gorillas, Orangutans tend to be loners and therefore babies learn everything they know from their mothers. Ombak will be heavily reliant on his mother for the first six to seven years of his life and only after this period can Kila become pregnant again.
The group of 8 Orangutans all came to Basel in 2012 as new arrivals after the renovation of the Zoo’s monkey house and seem to be doing well in their environment.
The Sumatran Orangutans are currently classified as a “Critically Endangered” species by the IUCN and are already extinct in some parts of Sumatra.
However Basel Zoo has supported an Orangutan conservation project in Borneo since 2010, providing 40,000 US dollars a year and aiming to maintain the last rainforest areas in north-eastern Malaysia.
The project integrates the local population’s interests into its nature and species conservation activities.
The birth of a healthy male Orangutan baby will help to raise hopes of a successful breeding programme for the species.