MOM. It is a word that makes us think of someone who loves us unconditionally, and who is always there for us. For our babies in Primate realm of ZooTampa at Lowry Park, it is no different. Watching the interactions between our moms and their babies, it is easy to see the strong bonds that exist between them. Each one is special and different in their own way, and this is evident in the different personalities exhibited by each of the babies.
The Bornean orangutan family is made up of 8 – Goyang, DeeDee, Dira, RanDee, Josie, Gojo, Hadiah, and Topi. DeeDee is the mother of both RanDee and 4-month-old, Dira. For the first few months of their lives, baby orangutans cling to their mother constantly, and Dira is just approaching the age where she wants to explore her surroundings. You can see Dira reach out and touch the other orangutans, or attempting to taste whatever foods DeeDee is eating. Dira doesn’t have any teeth at the moment, but she is showing signs that her first teeth are emerging. She will have “baby teeth” until approximately 6 years of age and then her permanent teeth will grow in. Dira also spends lots of time watching the other older orangutan babies, and is eager to try to do all the things they are doing. DeeDee is a very patient mother, and encourages Dira to practice her climbing skills, and shares her banana peels with Dira so that she can use them for teething. As Dira grows and becomes more independent, she will start to have play sessions with her older sister, RanDee. This will not only help Dira build her muscles and perfect her social skills, it will also help prepare RanDee for the day when she becomes a mom with a baby of her own.
The older babies in the group, Gojo and Topi, are both 2 years old. They are larger and stronger than Dira, and are capable of climbing all around the habitat all on their own. The older of the two is baby boy, Gojo and he is the most adventurous of the babies. He is often seen climbing at the very top of the habitat, or making his way down to the ground to forage for food. His mother is Josie and is a great mom. She has a way of instilling independence into her kids at an early age, but is always nearby if Gojo ever needs her. However, she lets him explore and try to do new things without her help. Topi is the younger of the two and isn’t quite as independent as Gojo. Her mom, Hadiah, is a first time mom and is much more protective over Topi as a result. She keeps Topi close to her most of the time, and isn’t as eager as Josie to let her venture off on her own. Topi is a very strong willed little girl, and will push the limits to see how far Hadiah will let her go. Under Hadith’s watchful eye, she will climb as high as she can or swing on the nearest swing. Topi loves to play with Gojo, and will soon have another playmate once Dira is old enough to join them.
The bond between the orangutan mothers and their babies is one of the strongest in the world. The babies are completely dependent on their mom for the first several years of life, remaining in very close physical contact with her throughout this time. Mom teaches them everything they need to know to survive and grow up to be a strong, healthy orangutan. This includes everything from what foods to eat to how to build a nest every night to sleep in. A baby orangutan will stay with its mother up to 9 years before it is ready to become independent. That is quite a commitment from mom!
This Mother’s Day weekend, please join us at ZooTampa as we participate in the annual MOM (Missing Orangutan Mothers) campaign to raise awareness of the threats faced by wild orangutans. There are 3 species of orangutans in the world, and all three are Critically Endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching, and the illegal pet trade. As habitats are destroyed for the development of Palm Oil plantations, orangutans are driven out of areas that were once their homes. Mothers are often poached, and their babies are taken to be sold in the illegal pet trade. The lucky ones are rescued and taken to rehabilitation centers, with the hope of one day being able to return to the wild. There are currently more than 1,000 orphaned orangutans being cared for in rehabilitation centers in Borneo and Sumatra. However, without their mom, it is very difficult and time consuming to teach them everything they need to know to survive. If it takes an orangutan mother up to 9 years to teach her baby all it needs to know, imagine how difficult this task is for human caregivers. Our orangutan babies at ZooTampa are very fortunate to have such wonderful moms watching over them every day. Your gracious support of ZooTampa helps support the conservation efforts working to save those orangutans in the wild and the daily care of the Bornean orangutan here at the Zoo.