NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A critically endangered Bornean orangutan was born late last month at the Virginia Zoo, the zoo announced Wednesday.

The orangutan was born on June 29 at around 5:45 a.m. to parents Dara, 24, and Solaris, 21. According to the zoo, this is a significant milestone.


(Photo – Virginia Zoo)

“The birth is a huge success for the Virginia Zoo, as this cub is only the second orangutan ever born at the zoo,” the organization said, “and for the species as a whole, which is facing rapid habitat destruction and population loss in the wild.”

The World Wildlife Federation says that Bornean orangutan populations have declined by more than 50 percent in the past 60 years, and the species’ range has declined by at least 55 percent in the past 20 years. In the wild, orangutans live only in the rainforests of the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra and spend almost their entire lives in trees — swinging from treetops and building nests to sleep in.

Bornean orangutans normally have one baby every seven to nine years, and may only have four to five babies in their lifetime. According to the zoo, every birth is therefore crucial to their survival.

Dara and the baby’s father, Solaris, are recommended as a breeding pair by the Orangutan Species Survival Plan. The plan coordinates population management of the species in collaboration with accredited and certified facilities and sustainability partners of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The new Bornean orangutan is their second offspring together. The pair lost their firstborn in 2018 to a sudden illness.

Zookeepers in the zoo’s Asia: Trail of the Tiger section reported that the mother and baby orangutan are doing well and are bonding well.

(Photo – Virginia Zoo)

The zoo’s veterinary staff and keepers will continue to monitor the pair behind the scenes for the time being, while Solaris remains in the outdoor enclosure to give mother and baby space to recover and bond.

“Our care team is thrilled about this new addition to our orangutan family,” Jill Strother, assistant curator of the Virginia Zoo’s Asia Department, said in a statement. “All of our hard work preparing Dara for birth with ultrasounds and maternal behavior training has paid off so well. We can’t wait to watch this little one blossom.”

The zoo will announce soon when the entire Bornean orangutan family will be exhibited together.

“The Virginia Zoo has a longstanding commitment to orangutan conservation and education, and we are thrilled to reach another conservation milestone with this birth,” said Greg Bockheim, the zoo’s director, in a statement. “We are confident that this baby will be a fantastic ambassador for his species, inspiring awe and a sense of care for many of our zoo’s visitors, which is our ultimate goal.”