Rare baby Bornean Orangutan born at Chester Zoo gives conservation hope

A rare Bornean Orangutan has been born at Chester Zoo.

The baby was born early on 31 August to parents Sarikei and Willie following an eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy.

Primate experts at the zoo say its too early to say yet whether its a male or female.

But they do agree that the birth is an important step in helping to protect the highly threatened species.

Mark Brayshaw, Head of Mammals at the zoo, said: “The birth of an animal that’s so rare is always something to celebrate and seeing the new baby in the arms of mum Sarikei is incredibly special.

"She’s a great mum and has spent the first few days cradling her baby closely, feeding it regularly and building close bonds - all the signs are great so far.

“With the newborn just a few days old we’ve not yet managed to clearly identify if it’s male or female.

"What’s most important though is that there’s another healthy Bornean orangutan on the planet.

“To have a new addition within the international conservation breeding programme that’s working to safeguard the species’ future, is a hugely positive step in the right direction.”

Experts say the rare baby is a “positive step in the right direction” for the protection of the highly threatened species. Credit: Chester Zoo

The world’s authority on the state of nature, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), lists Bornean orangutans as critically endangered in the wild.

They are ranked as one of the species which requires the highest conservation priority.

The newborn orangutan is part of a European-wide conservation breeding programme aiming to bolster the population of the rare primate in conservation zoos.

The destruction of the species' natural habitat has seen the rainforests of Borneo cleared for agriculture, logging and oil palm plantations.

This coupled with illegal hunting and conflict with farmers when orangutans enter areas where their forest homes once stood, have driven the animals to the very edge of existence.

Bornean orangutans are a critically endangered species and face an extremely high chance of extinction in the near future. Credit: Chester Zoo

Mike Jordan, Animal & Plant Director at the zoo, added: “The birth of a Bornean orangutan holds an incredible amount of significance for those fighting for this species.

"The island of Borneo, the only place where these magnificent apes are found, has lost more than 40% of its rainforests since the turn of the millennia.

"This relentless habitat loss has seen rainforests, and many of the thousands of species living in them, completely disappear with incredible pace.

“Our efforts to protect Bornean orangutans extend far beyond the boundaries of our conservation zoo. We are on the ground in South East Asia, working with in-country partners and NGOs to help tackle the deforestation and palm oil crisis that has engulfed the region."