Funday Times

Baby orangutan at the Dehiwala Zoo

By Shalomi Daniel, Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara

A baby male orangutan was born on November 3, 2010 at the Dehiwala Zoo in Sri Lanka. The general public was asked to suggest names, and the name suggested by six year old Dimuth Tharinda was chosen. He named the baby Sakifo.

“This baby orangutan made history as it is the first Sumatran orangutan to be born in Sri Lanka,” says Veterinary Surgeon of the Dehiwala Zoo, Dr. Jagath Jayasekera. The previous birth recorded in
Sri Lanka is that of a Bornean orangutan 28 years before.

The only two surviving species of orangutans in the world are the Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan. Though both species are endangered, the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered. The Sumatran orangutan is the species found in Sri Lanka currently.

There are less than 6000 orangutans in the world today and the Sumatran orangutan is only 14% of the total. The parents of the new born baby orangutan were bought to Sri Lanka on November 11, 2003 from Indonesia. They were the last couple to be sent out of Indonesia, as orangutans are endangered and facing extinction. The father is 14 years old and the mother is 12 years old at present.

The diet of the baby will be limited to the mother’s milk for the first six months. It would take seven to eight months for the baby to start eating solid food such as fruits and vegetables. The mother will be kept on a diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and milk, to ensure the adequate supply of milk for the baby.

Dr. Jayasekera added that as it was not possible to approach the orangutans, photographs will be taken every four to five days and the size etc., of the animal will be monitored digitally. He said that the baby is in good health so far.

Dr. Jayasekera also said that the baby is very much attached to the mother. However, the baby has not yet been introduced to the father. It has been recorded that in certain species the father kills the male baby due to the threat of competition in the future.

In the wild the mother would escape with the baby for a while, to avoid such a situation. Dr. Jayasekera went on to say that research is being conducted to check if the father is a threat to the male baby in the orangutan family as well. If the father is not proved to be a threat, the baby will be introduced to the father gradually.

As the birth of this baby orangutan is of international importance and as the baby is considered an
international resource, it has been recorded in the International Stud Book. The International Stud Book is where details of valuable species in the world are recorded.

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