Toledo Zoo

Fajar is thriving at the Toledo Zoo after constant care from zoo staff since his October birth. Recently reunited with mom Leela, he is currently in an off-exhibit area at the zoo. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOLEDO ZOO

Toledo Zoo Debuts Baby Orangutan

A male baby orangutan, Fajar (fah-zhar), whose name means dawn or start of a new day, was born at the Toledo Zoo on October 12, 2019 to first-time parents Leela and Bajik (bah-zhee), both Bornean orangutans. 

At this time, mom and baby remain under the watchful eyes of animal care staff in an off-exhibit area with dad nearby as they continue to bond. A public debut date has not been set.

Shortly after giving birth, Leela was observed cradling and cleaning her baby. Keepers were concerned, however, 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, great apes’ staff had to constantly hold the baby, who in the wild would cling to mom, while also trying to maintain a close bond between mom and baby. 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. While these behaviors are quite advanced for such a young orangutan, they were necessary to ensure proper care and diet. 

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. They stepped in and cared for this new baby just like parents. They worked around the clock, stuck to a 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,” said Suzanne Husband, associate curator of mammals.

Visit the Toledo Zoo’s website, www.toledozoo.org, or call (419) 385-4040 for more information about these and other upcoming events.