A baby orangutan was born on Tuesday at the Pairi Daiza park in Brugelette, park authorities announced on Wednesday. The birth was described as “historic” since orangutans are “in critical danger of extinction” and, moreover, the reproduction was natural. Little Sungai, whose name means “river” in Bahasa Indonesia, brings to six the number of Sumatran orangutans in the animal park.
The birth is also exceptional because it is only the second of its kind in Belgium after a first successful birth in the 1970s at Antwerp Zoo, park authorities said.
Moreover, given their long adolescence and the fact that the animals take a long time to reach sexual maturity, their reproduction rate is very low. Orangutans live between 30 and 40 years in the wild, and their females, which have an eight-month gestation period, give birth to just three or four babies in their lifetime.
Sungai is the result of “love at first sight” between a female orangutan, Sinta, and a male, Gempa, both of which arrived in 2016 to participate in a reproduction programme for the species.
Sumatra’s orangutans have seen their populations slowly decline, due to poaching and the destruction of their forest habitat, which is being replaced mainly by oil-palm plantations. “There are just about 13,800 individuals in the wild,” the park authorities said.
The first days of a baby orangutan’s life are “delicate” so the newly born may not yet be seen. If its mother so wishes, visitors to Pairi Daiza will be able to see it soon.