As the day of the orangutan birth drew near, my days as a keeper had fallen into a familiar pattern. After conducting morning health checks on the other animals in my care, I arrived at the orangutan kitchen on Friday, October 25, 2013. I turned the camera monitor on, expecting to see our pregnant orangutan still sleeping. Indah always builds her nest in the front corner of her bedroom and covers herself up with burlap. But today was different: Indah was awake and sitting up. I immediately got excited, as I expected to see a baby orangutan. After a few minutes of scanning the bedroom with the monitor’s camera, I could not see an infant, so I made the decision to go down to the orangutan bedroom area earlier than usual to check on Indah.
All was quiet and normal as I entered the building. When I approached Indah, she came right up to me and was calm. But it was obvious that something was happening. She was constantly moving and climbing around her room. I wondered if this time around she remembered when her son, Cinta, was born and could recall what was happening. Soon, a couple of other keepers joined me, and we contacted the manager and veterinarian staff on duty.
From this point, everything happened very quickly. I knew that with Indah’s first offspring, Cinta, her labor lasted for less than an hour after her water broke. Everything went much faster this time around! The first check on Indah was at 6:30 a.m., and by 7 a.m., her water broke. We thought we were going to have to wait for a while, but she delighted and surprised us by giving birth 15 minutes later!
The baby was alert, and Indah immediately cleaned the infant’s airway. The baby vocalized and clutched onto Indah. Within 30 minutes, the baby was completely dry and cute and as perfect as can be! We were fortunate to be able to determine that she was a little girl. At this point, Indah was very comfortable with us observing her and the baby.
She continues to be a very attentive and caring mother. Any time the baby vocalizes, Indah turns her attention toward her, and the baby quiets right down. Indah had been choosing to remain inside the bedroom area most days to focus on the baby without having to worry about her environment and the other animals. She is given access to the exhibit each morning but does not always choose to go out. Keep your eyes “peeled” for them on Ape Cam!
Tanya Howard is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Orangutan Indah: Think Pink.