Back in December 2017, the Lowry Park Zoo welcomed an early Christmas present: Holly Berry, the adorable (and rare) baby pygmy hippo. And to ring in the new year, the zoo is again celebrating another birth! Dee Dee, a Bornean orangutan, gave birth to a three-pound baby girl named Dira on January 6, 2018, and she is quite the cutie. The zoo confirmed Dee Dee was pregnant during an ultrasound in October 2017, marking baby number five for Dee Dee and baby number three for dad Goyang.
“Dee Dee continues to do well with her female baby. As an experienced mother, she didn’t show any signs of any possible issues. We determined that Dee Dee’s baby had turned during one of her regular ultrasound exams,” said Ray Ball, DVM, the zoo’s vice president of medical sciences. “Careful monitoring and pre-natal care are important, but so is privacy. With veterinary medicine, the baby determines the day of birth, but the mom determines the time. With no signs of a high-risk pregnancy, we let her take care of the labor naturally — she determined when it would be time to deliver her baby.”
As was the case for little Holly Berry, the zoo is excited about the birth of a new Bornean orangutan because it increases the overall number of this endangered species. Right now, the zoo houses seven endangered orangutans. This latest addition brings the total number of Bornean orangutans born at Lowry Park Zoo to 10. Lowry Park Zoo opened Baby’s habitat for viewing on January 11, so if you’re a Florida resident or you just so happen to be in Tampa, stop by the zoo for a glimpse of the baby Bornean orangutan!
For those who can’t make it to the zoo, keep scrolling to see more cute photos of mom and baby.
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Lowry Park Zoo is one of only 24 AZA-accredited institutions in North America — the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) aims to protect endangered or at-risk wildlife — and by their count, there are fewer than 100 Bornean orangutans being houses by these organizations. As if this birth wasn't reason enough to jump for joy, increasing the numbers of an endangered species deserves a party!
Baby orangutans are completely dependent on mom for the first six to eight months of their lives, so mom Dee Dee will have plenty of time to bond with her little one. When Baby's sister RanDee was born, the zoo said "calm and patient" mom Dee Dee was "very tolerant" of RanDee's antics, so we're sure she's up for the challenge of caring for a newborn. Fun fact: baby orangutans will cry, smile, and whimper at their mothers — just like human babies!
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"Our family of orangutans spends its days hunting through their exhibit for tasty snacks, wrestling with one another, and building forts out of cardboard boxes and blankets," the zoo writes on its website.
"The young will take this opportunity to play with one another and practice their climbing and swinging skills in the process. Once they have filled up on fruit and the kids are tired from playing, the adult females will build nests out of the leaves and branches of the trees, and they will sleep in these nests, often covering themselves with large leaves. The leaves are used as shields from the sun as well as umbrellas during the frequent downpours that occur in the rainforest."
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At around 8 or 9 years old, orangutans will finally leave their mothers and become independent. (If only humans grew up that fast!) Bornean orangutans generally live in lowland, tropical, swamp, and mountain forests of the islands Borneo and Sumatra, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Sadly, the worldwide Bornean orangutan population has declined by more than 50 percent during the last 60 years, reports the WWF. Bornean orangutans have also seen their habitats decrease by at least 55 percent during the last two decades.
Human activity is the main cause of the decline in Bornean orangutan numbers. Deforestation, illegal logging, mining, and converting rain forest to agricultural lands have all made it harder for orangutans to survive. The deadly Kalimantan forest fires of 1997 to 1998, which were caused by the slash-and-burn technique of Indonesian farmers, is estimated to have caused the deaths of at least 8,000 orangutans. Orangutans are also often snatched and sold as pets.
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Fortunately, Baby won't have to worry about that, as she's warm and safe with Mom at her habitat in Lowry Park Zoo. Because orangutans are semi-solitary creatures, males have no contact with their young. Mom is in charge of socializing her offspring, and for the first four months of its life, she will not break contact with her baby. From age two to five, the young will start to venture away from their mother, but always stay within her eyesight. By four, they are mostly weaned, and by eight, they will start to hang out and travel with their peers.
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Similar to the way in which Holly Berry the hippo's name was chosen, the zoo polled the public, receiving more than 1,000 submissions in just three days. Zoo fans eventually settled on Dira — a Hindu name, according to BachPan.com, that means "lovely redheaded girl." How fitting! Welcome to the world, Dira.