Zookeepers celebrate first orangutan born at Virginia Zoo

NORFOLK, Va. – This isn’t your ordinary birthday.

Just before midnight on Friday, June 22, the Virginia Zoo’s 18-year-old orangutan Dara gave birth to her baby in her indoor den. This is the first of the critically endangered species to be born at the zoo. The baby is also the first offspring for both Dara and her 15-year-old mate, Solaris.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the news of our new orangutan baby,” said Greg Bockheim, the Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “I’m proud of our Zoo Keepers and Vet Team who have been prepping, training and waiting for this moment for months, and now their hard work has paid off. It’s a big success to contribute this significant birth to the Zoo community and the critically endangered species as a whole,” Bockheim added.

Zookeepers have not yet determined the baby’s weight or sex. Staff will keep Dara and the baby indoors to let them bond without interruption and will not intervene or separate them unless the child needs assistance and/or veterinary attention.

Experts say infants are completely dependent on the mother until they are at least two years old and typically nurse for several more years beyond that age. They tend to stay close to their mothers for up to 10 years or more.

The Zoo now has five orangutans: Dara and her baby, Solaris, 38-year-old female Pepper and 36-year-old male Schnitz.

More information about the baby, including its name, will be released in the coming weeks.