Toledo Zoo debuts baby orangutan born in October

Press Staff Writer

        The Toledo Zoo’s new male baby orangutan, Fajar (fah-zhar), is growing and bonding with his parents – Leela and Bajik (bah-zhee), both Bornean orangutans.
        Fajar, whose name means “dawn or start of a new day,” was born on Oct. 12, 2019. Mom and baby remain under the watchful eyes of animal care staff in an off-exhibit area with dad nearby. A public debut date has not been set.               Shortly after giving birth, Leela was observed cradling and cleaning her baby, however, keepers were concerned about the placenta remaining attached. The decision was made to separate mom and baby for a full veterinary examination.
        Tests revealed Fajar had an infection in the umbilicus. While being treated for the infection, the new offspring was hand-reared by great apes’ staff  24 hours a day.
        For approximately six months, the staff had to constantly hold the baby, who, in the wild would cling to mom, while they also tried to maintain a close bond between Leela and Fajar.
        Keepers trained daily with both Fajar and Leela in hopes of reuniting them as soon as possible. Leela's maternal training behaviors were positively reinforced, and using a bottle on a stick for feeding, the baby was introduced. At the same time, Fajar was trained to climb, crawl and take a bottle on a stick through the mesh.
        Throughout the process, much time was spent simply allowing Leela and Fajar to bond. When it was determined that both orangutans were ready, one-on-one time was introduced.
        On April 6, Leela and Fajar were officially re-introduced and when the animal care team saw consistent healthy bonding and proper care, the next step was to leave mom and baby together overnight. Staff continued to observe, and when it was determined they were doing well together, human parental assistance was ceased.
        According to keepers, Leela and Fajar are continuing to work out a daily routine but continue to bond and grow. Fajar currently weighs just over 12 pounds, has 10 teeth and eats rice cereal mixed with fruits and vegetables, while also starting to sample food from Leela.
        “Fajar’s story is a true testament to the passion, love and work ethic of our animal care team, specifically the great apes’ staff,” said Suzanne Husband, associate curator of mammals. “They stepped in and cared for this new baby just like parents. They worked around the clock, stuck to feeding schedule, changed diapers and even wore him in a baby sling while they worked to ensure proper strength and form for him to hold on just like in the wild.
        “Successfully reuniting mom and baby was always the goal and we could not be prouder of our team and the new orangutan family,” she said.


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