The baby Bornean orangutan has found a new home in the Moscow Zoo. It won’t take long before visitors will get a chance to see the nimble and joyous orangutan Matiku, now four months old, in the Primate House on the zoo’s new territory.
Matiku was born at the Novosibirsk Zoo, where his mother, Michele, was transferred one year ago. However, he sustained a head injury during delivery, and doctors had to fight for his life for several days. The surgery and recovery went well, after which local zoologists tried to reunite the baby with his mother, but she did not show any interest. Experts explained this phenomenon by Michele’s young age (she gave birth at the age of nine), as well as the fact that she was separated from her child right after delivery.
“Primates, and especially anthropoid primates, must live in family groups, which is essential for the development of every animal. It is rare for primate babies that are brought up by humans to be socialised among their kin, and it is not uncommon for them never to find a place among their relatives. It is for this reason that the European orangutan conservation programme coordinator decided to transfer Matiku to the Moscow Zoo where his grandmother Lichana (Lichi) lives. She is a very experienced female primate and a mother of four,” Moscow Zoo Director Svetlana Akulova said.
She noted that raising young did not come easy for Lichana, just as for Michele, since Lichana herself was brought up by zoo personnel. Zoologists used to take care of her offspring for the first several months after birth, after which she was happy to take them back.
Zoo personnel will have to make serious efforts in order to socialise Matiku and help him adapt to his new relatives. During the recovery, the baby orangutan got used to humans: he is not afraid of people, can be easily picked up and is curious about any person, be it a doctor or a zoo employee.
“We hope that Lichi accepts him as her own child. So far Matiku has been getting used to his new environment. He did great during the flight from Novosibirsk, behaved quite well and was very brave. The baby is now getting acquainted to the new personnel who will be taking care of him. His courage and social skills are improving by the day,” Ms Akulova went on to say.
The Bornean orangutan is a great ape that lives on the island of Borneo (Kalimantan), split between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Adult males can weigh up to 90 kilograms and can be as tall as 1.5 metres. This orangutan is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which is primarily due to the destruction of the species’ natural habitat. In addition, poachers often kill adult animals in order to sell their babies on the black market, since these primates can be trained.
For many years now, zoos across the world have been hard at work seeking to restore the population of Bornean orangutans. The European orangutan conservation programme has achieved a lot as part of its efforts to preserve this species in captivity. As a member of the initiative, the Moscow Zoo is now home to two Bornean and three Sumatran orangutans. They can all be seen at the zoo’s Primate House.
The zoo often receives new animals to add to its thousands of species and total of 8,000 animals. This year, two Amur tigers came to the Moscow Zoo, as well as a secretary bird and fossas from Madagascar. In 2017, the zoo received an exotic aardvark and three couples of gentoo penguins.