Dehiwala Zoo’s New Orang-utan Baby


Now it’s Aki, Ufo and baby
A baby Orang-utan for Dehiwela Zoo after 28 years..!!
By Malaka Rodrigo

The first birth is always a happy moment for any parent. Hence, November 3 would be one of the happiest days for Dehiwala Zoo’s female Orang-utan Aki, who gave birth to a healthy male baby. Following their post-natal care, the Zoo released the mother and newborn into the open area of the Orang-utan enclosure on Thursday (16) to the accompaniment of religious activities.

After the birth, Aki was separated from its husband and kept in her cage with the baby. Coming out after about a month, Aki first cautiously checked the enclosure and ensured that the environment was safe for her baby. Then she slowly came out and had her breakfast placed at the front of the enclosure. The baby – not named at that time – clinging to her mother’s breast came out into the open for the first time.

After enjoying the fruits, Aki hurried to another cage in a corner of the enclosure. “This is where the father Orang-utan is kept at the moment,” said Veterinary surgeon Dr. Jagath Jayasekera. Proud mother Aki sat near the door of father Orang-utan – Ufo’s cage. Before Aki was temporarily separated soon after the birth, Aki and Ufo would playfully spend time with each other.

Aki and Ufo became residents of Dehiwala Zoo in 2003, through an animal exchange programme with Indonesia’s Ragunan Zoo. They were, in fact, the last couple of Orang-utans gifted by Indonesia’s Ragunan Zoo.

Orang-utan is the only great ape living in Asia, and also the largest arboreal primate. They are only found in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo islands and are endangered. In fact, Orang-utans are the second most valuable animals in the zoo, after the Black Rhinos.

The world zoo community maintains records or breeding register to ensure these rare animals do not inbreed or mate with the same family members, giving birth to weaker babies. Males often have white or orange beards and develop enormous cheek flanges of fat and fibrous tissue. Ufo and Aki are both aged 11 years now.

The Zoo’s Orangutan enclosure is indeed one of the best, with several logs and ropes where the apes can climb and play around. Naming of the baby too was in keeping with local tradition, as zoo officials went to an astrologer with the baby’s time of birth, and were recommended several letters. The Zoo allowed visitors to suggest names starting with the recommended one, from which a name was to be selected.

Sakifo will be its name

The competition to name the baby Orang-utan attracted a large response, with visitors invited to drop their suggestions into a box specially maintained for that purpose.

The winning entry was Sakifo, as suggested by Dimuth Tharinda, a schoolboy from Uva Paranagama. According to Dimuth, the name is a combination of ‘saki’, which means ‘friend’ in Sinhala, and ‘fo’, the last two letters of the father’s name Ufo.

Published on SundayTimes on 19.12.2010

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