A NEW CHAPTER FOR INFANT SUMATRAN ORANGUTAN NANGKA
4-month-old from Sacramento Zoo will be introduced to Zoo Atlanta’s nationally renowned veteran adoptive mother Madu
ATLANTA – September 11, 2023 – Zoo Atlanta and the Sacramento Zoo are very pleased to announce that Nangka, a 4-month-old male Sumatran orangutan, arrived safely in Atlanta on Friday, September 8, 2023. In coming days, the infant will have an opportunity to meet Madu, a 40-year-old female Sumatran orangutan who has successfully adopted four youngsters over the past more than 20 years.
Nangka, whose name means “jackfruit” in Indonesian, has received round-the-clock care from the team at the Sacramento Zoo since his birth on May 1, 2023. When it became apparent that his biological mother was not likely to provide appropriate maternal interest or care – a situation which is not uncommon for first-time orangutan mothers – the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommended that Nangka be transferred to a location with an experienced adoptive mother.
“Nangka has received the best of care from the team in Sacramento, and his well-being has always been everyone’s top priority. The best mother for an orangutan is another orangutan, and we are so glad that we have a resource like Madu, who is a truly extraordinary individual. She is a natural with many years of experience,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “This is just one of many examples of the ways AZA zoos work together for the good of individual animals and the sustainability of their species. We’re excited to be able to share more on Nangka’s new chapter.”
“We are thrilled that Nangka will be able to grow up with Madu and the rest of the Zoo Atlanta group,” said Janine Steele, Animal Care Supervisor and Primate Lead at Sacramento Zoo. “It has always been the goal for the Sacramento Zoo to have Nangka be an orangutan raised by orangutans. Since his birth, dozens of dedicated people from across the Sac Zoo’s team of staff and volunteers have contributed to Nangka’s success thus far. A specialized team cared for Nangka around the clock since his birth – more than 3,000 hours in total – and the entire Sac Zoo family has been dedicated to his success. Now we are so pleased that the team at Zoo Atlanta, including Madu, will now carry out that care.”
It is vital that infant orangutans be reared by other orangutans, who have a longer childhood than any other terrestrial mammal with the exception of humans (eight to 10 years). The opportunity to be reared by a fellow orangutan is essential to the development of the young, who 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.
Although she has no biological offspring of her own, Madu is a remarkable individual with an outstanding track record for adopting infants whose mothers were unwilling or unable to care for them. The two youngest of these, male Remy, 12, and female Keju, 8, continue to reside at Zoo Atlanta. With her four previous adopted infants, Madu was trained to bring an infant forward to receive regular bottle feedings from human caregivers, providing all other aspects of maternal care herself. Infants are not removed from her for feeding – she has been trained to bring infants forward for bottle feeding through an indoor mesh barrier – and care team members will not share the same space with Madu.
Zoo Atlanta is home to one of North America’s largest populations of orangutans, now with 10 individuals representing both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. Urgently threatened by habitat loss, largely as a result of deforestation for commercial palm oil production in their native southeast Asia, orangutans face extinction within a decade without targeted conservation efforts.
Zoo Atlanta is one of only a small number of zoos to pursue and attain membership in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil™ (RSPO). The Zoo and many other accredited zoos are vocal advocates for encouraging the use of only sustainable palm oil, supporting only companies who use sustainably produced oil and celebrating those corporations who make the switch to sustainable, and raising public awareness of the necessity for informed shopping.
Madu and Nangka will have an opportunity to bond behind-the-scenes before exploring the outdoor orangutan complex. Stay tuned for updates on their introductions and for news on when Members and guests will be able to see the new arrival.
Photo courtesy of Sacramento Zoo
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About Zoo Atlanta
A proud accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the gold standard for animal care and welfare, Zoo Atlanta has a mission to save wildlife and their habitats through conservation, research, education, and engaging experiences. The Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Highlights include giant pandas, including Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only giant panda twins in the U.S.; one of North America’s largest zoological populations of great apes; and a global center of excellence for the care and study of reptiles and amphibians. Recent transformations include the African Savanna, featuring new and expanded habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, bontebok, warthogs, meerkats and rhinos; Savanna Hall, a state-of-the-art special event destination in the newly restored historic former home of the Atlanta Cyclorama; and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Plaza. For more information, visit zooatlanta.org.