Having worked at the L.A. Zoo for more than five years now, I can’t recall a more momentous or joyous occasion than the February 22 birth of a baby orangutan here that was officially announced today. I’ve wanted to shout it from my desktop this past couple weeks, but I was made to officially play mum’s the word. And though I’m only a small cog in the gears of this zoological institution and far removed from all the marvelous and dedicated veterinary and animal care efforts that helped bring this little miracle into the world, I still feel a bit like a proud daddy ready to pass out a buncha cheap cigars.
I got the image at right of mom and baby out and about on exhibit today. Mom’s name is Kalim and the baby’s sex has yet to be determined as Kalim won’t let anyone near enough to find out. The father’s name is Minyak who’s a miracle on his own. Though genetically valuable when he arrived at the Zoo in 2002, he had been chronically ill with air sac infections for most of his life. Groundbreaking surgery in 2003 resulted in the full removal of his air sac, and since then it’s been a slow-and-go recovery. Eventually his health improved enough to be moved onto exhibit with females Rosie, Eloise and Kalim. And in June 2004, Kalim conceived.
With the risk of orangutans in the wild going extinct not much farther beyond our lifetimes and maybe even while we’re still here, seeing this new addition to the species looking around curiously from the arms of its adoring and protective momma is nothing short inspirational.