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Nangka, the 5-month-old infant Sumatran orangutan who arrived at Zoo Atlanta on September 8, has found a new chapter with a devoted mother. Noted Zoo Atlanta “supermom” Madu readily accepted Nangka shortly after his arrival, and the two continue to bond as she rears what is now her fifth adoptive infant.  

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommended that Nangka, who was born at the Sacramento Zoo on May 1, 2023, be transferred to Zoo Atlanta when it became apparent that his biological mother was not likely to provide appropriate maternal interest or care for him. Although she has no biological offspring of her own, Madu has a remarkable track record for adopting infants whose mothers were unwilling or unable to care for them.  

With her four prior adopted infants, Madu was trained to bring an infant forward to receive regular bottle feedings from human caregivers, providing all aspects of maternal care herself. Nangka is not removed from her for feeding; instead, she has been trained to bring him forward for bottle feeding through an indoor mesh barrier. Care team members do not share the same space with Madu or the other orangutans at Zoo Atlanta.  

With the exception of humans, orangutans have a longer dependent childhood (eight to 10 years) than any other terrestrial mammal. It is vital that infant orangutans be reared by other orangutans, as they learn everything they know from their mothers. In the wild, these skills include knowledge of climbing safety, appropriate predator avoidance behaviors, the ability to identify and remember the locations of fruiting trees, and the ability to discern the appropriateness of certain fruits and other foods.  

Madu and Nangka will continue to bond behind-the-scenes before exploring the outdoor complex together, so the two are not yet visible to guests. Stay tuned for updates, and check out video content on Zoo Atlanta’s social networks.  

(photo: Sacramento Zoo)



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