Baby Keju has arrived in Atlanta to meet veteran foster mother Madu
ATLANTA – October 20, 2015 – On October 18, 2015, a very special traveler arrived in Atlanta to meet the remarkable ape that Zoo Atlanta experts hope will become her new mother. Keju, a 6-month-old female Bornean orangutan, has joined the Zoo Atlanta family from the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis. In coming days, the infant will have an opportunity to meet Madu, a 32-year-old female Sumatran orangutan who has successfully fostered three youngsters over the past 13 years.
Keju has received round-the-clock care from the team at Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo since her birth on April 9, 2015. When it became evident that Keju’s biological mother was not likely to provide appropriate maternal care for her newborn – a situation that is not uncommon for first-time orangutan mothers – the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended that Keju be transferred to a location with an experienced surrogate.
“We’re delighted about welcoming baby Keju to the Zoo Atlanta family. We commend the team of caregivers at Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo for their extraordinary commitment in ensuring that she is a healthy infant who has received the best care possible over these first several months of her life,” said Lori Perkins, Vice President of Collections at Zoo Atlanta and the Chair of the Orangutan SSP, which seeks to maintain healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining orangutan populations in accredited zoos in the U.S. “We are all in agreement, however, that the best mother for an infant orangutan is another orangutan, and we’re very pleased to offer Keju a home where she can have this crucial opportunity. We look forward to introducing her not only to Madu, but to a new Zoo family of Members and guests who can experience the joy of watching her grow.”
Although she has no biological offspring of her own, Madu is a proven mother with an outstanding track record for rearing her three foster sons: Remy, 4; Dumadi, 8; and Bernas, 13. Bernas now resides at the Denver Zoo. With her three previous foster infants, Madu was trained to bring an infant forward to receive regular bottle feedings from human caregivers, providing all other aspects of maternal care herself.
Orangutans have longer childhoods than do any other terrestrial mammal species with the exception of humans. The opportunity to be reared by a fellow orangutan is essential to the development of the young, who learn everything they know from their mothers. In the wild, these skills include knowledge of climbing safety, appropriate predator avoidance behaviors, the ability to identify and remember the locations of fruiting trees and the ability to discern the appropriateness of certain fruits and other foods.
Bornean orangutans can be distinguished from Sumatran orangutans by their darker hair and skin. While the Bornean apes outnumber their Sumatran counterparts in the wild, both species are endangered and are experiencing dramatic population declines as a result of habitat loss, over-harvesting of timber for palm oil plantations, and human encroachment. Experts predict that Sumatran orangutans could be extinct within 10 years without targeted conservation efforts.
Zoo Atlanta houses the largest zoological collection of great apes in the U.S., including 20 gorillas, and is now home to 12 orangutans ranging in age from Keju to the Zoo’s senior orangutan, 45-year-old Biji.
Madu and Keju will have an opportunity to bond behind-the-scenes before meeting Members and guests. Stay tuned for updates on their introductions and for news on when Members and guests will be able to see the new arrival.