Critically Endangered Orangutan Born At Chester Zoo Providing Hope For Species
In wholly happy news, a zoo are celebrating the surprise birth a critically endangered Bornean orangutan.
Chester Zoo says the baby monkey took keepers by surprise after its mother Leia's pregnancy tests had come out negative just months before.
Doting mother Leia had been "really shy" about showing off her newborn at first, but the zoo have since captured adorable images and video footage of the new arrival.
According to keepers, both mum and baby are doing well.
Bornean orangutans are named by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.
Their habitats have been destroyed by palm oil plantations and illegal hunting of the animals has pushed their species to the brink of extinction.
Recent estimates found there were as little as 55,000 Bornean orangutans left on the island of Borneo in Indonesia - the only place they can be found in the wild.
The orangutans at Chester Zoo - including Leia and now her newborn are part of a massive conservation effort at the zoo.
Chris Yarwood, a primate keeper at the zoo, said: "The pregnancy tests we had carried out on Leia in the months prior to the birth had actually returned negative results. It was therefore a wonderful surprise to arrive one morning to see her protectively cradling a beautiful new arrival.
"Leia enjoys spending lots of time alone with her baby and has so far been quite shy about showing it off. She always keeps it really close to her and so we've not yet been able to clearly determine what the gender of the infant is.
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"What we are sure of though is that the baby is bright, alert and suckling well from mum and has developed well over the last couple of months. This is Leia's second baby - she's a great mum and is doing a fab job once again.
"Chester is one of the few zoos in Europe that cares for both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. These are critically endangered animals and, importantly, we've seen babies from both sub-species born in recent times. It just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world right now, life is carrying on as normal for the orangutans, which is really uplifting to see."
Dr Nick Davis, the zoo's Deputy Curator of Mammals, added: "Bornean orangutans are the largest arboreal mammals in the world and how fast their numbers are plummeting is frightening.
"They are victims of illegal hunting and habitat loss and are highly threatened by the unsustainable oil palm industry, which is having a devastating effect on the forests where they live.
"These magnificent animals are being pushed to the very edge of existence and it really could be the case that we soon lose them forever.
"It's absolutely vital therefore that there's a sustainable population of Bornean orangutans in the world's progressive zoos - every addition to the European endangered species breeding programme is so, so important."
While there's still so much work to be done, this is a such happy news.
Congratulations Leia and Chester Zoo!
Featured Image Credit: Chester Zoo
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