Baby On Board
Cameron Park Zoo is pleased to announce that Mei and KJ, the Zoo’s Bornean orangutans, are expecting a new arrival this winter.
Cameron Park Zoo animal care staff attained a positive pregnancy test in June 2016. Orangutan gestation averages 8.5 months so Mei is expected to give birth the last week in January. All pregnancies carry a degree of risk, and Mei’s condition is being carefully monitored by her keepers, the zoo’s veterinarian, and local OB/Gyn, Dr. Dianne Sawyer. Mei is trained to participate in voluntary ultrasounds and exams so that her progress is regularly monitored throughout the pregnancy.
This is the second baby for Mei and KJ. Their first infant, Batari, died at 6 ½ months from a condition that normally affects human infants known as acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage. Batari’s case is believed to be the first in an orangutan infant.
Mei and KJ proved to be excellent parents with their first baby, but to plan for every contingency zookeepers are refreshing the pair’s parenting skills by training behaviors such as presenting the baby for exams and breast pump training for Mei.
This week Cameron Park Zoo is celebrating Orangutan Caring Week, an international event aimed at raising awareness about the plight of wild orangutans and the urgent dangers facing their rainforest homes. Captive born orangutans like Mei and KJ serve as ambassadors for their wild cousins and the news of a pregnancy is good news to all who are involved in orangutan conservation. The Orangutan Species Survival Plan, which seeks to maintain a self-sustaining, genetically diverse population of orangutans living in North American zoos, gave Cameron Park Zoo officials a breeding recommendation for the pair in 2015.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently downgraded the status of the Bornean orangutan from “endangered” to “critically endangered.” The combined impacts of habitat loss, habitat degradation, and illegal hunting have pushed both the Bornean and Sumatran orangutan toward an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.