By Wanda Wierzbicki

Puppe recently celebrated her 54 birthday! She is the oldest orangutan in North America and she has lived at the Toronto Zoo since it opened in 1974. Puppe is mother to five and grandmother to four.

Recently, the Toronto Zoo announced that 29-year-old Sekali is pregnant with her second offspring. The father is 15-year-old Budi (Puppe’s son). Both were born at the zoo. Orangutan pregnancies are slightly shorter than humans and Sekali is due in April. This is the first orangutan pregnancy at the Zoo since 2006.

There are a total of six orangutans at the zoo. The others are: Ramai and her daughter Jingga, and Sekali’s first-born son Kembali.

Orangutans are very intelligent and often use tools. They live alone, in pairs or in small family groups. Female orangutans usually give birth to a single young. The infant weighs between 1.5 to 2 kg at birth. Orangutan mothers are very caring. The baby clings to the mother for a year, then rides on her back until it is 2 years old. They become independent around 4 years old, but will spend the next two to three years with their mother before leaving on their own. Young are usually born every six years and a female may have only four or five during her life. Similar to humans, orangutans have a slow growth rate  Males do not attain full physical maturity until age 15. The life span of the orangutan in the wild is around 30-45 years.

The main threat for orangutans is loss of habitat due to clearing for agriculture, illegal logging and, in particular, palm oil plantations. For orangutans in the wild, extinction is a real and constant threat. The world has lost an estimated 120,000 orangutans in the past decade.

The zoo is building a new outdoor home for the orangutans, which is expected to be complete in the spring. In the meantime, visit Puppe, Sekali, Budi and the others in the Indo-Malayan pavilion.