A healthy male baby orangutan who was named for an island in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, was born earlier this month, officials with the San Diego Zoo announced Tuesday.
Kaja, the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan infant, is the third offspring of Indah, a 3-year-old ape who also gave birth to Kaja's sister Aisha in 2014, the last time an orangutan was born at the zoo.
Both Kaja and Aisha were fathered by Satu, a 26-year-old orangutan who died just before Christmas. Zoo officials believed Satu's death to be related to cancer. The zoo called Satu a “much-loved ape” and “charismatic primate.” He was born at the zoo in 1995.
Indah and Satu's legacy now lives on in Kaja, who was born on Jan. 4.
"To witness the birth of such a majestic critically endangered animal is a remarkable experience and brings us hope for the future," said Erika Kohler, interim executive director of the San Diego Zoo. "His birth increases the population by one and that is a necessary step in our ongoing efforts to gain a deeper understanding of orangutans so we can conserve the species where they live."
According to the zoo, although the infant orangutan was deemed healthy, Indah experienced some complications following the birth. Zoo team members reached out to experts for help, including neonatal anesthesiologists and OB-GYN specialists.
Indah is recovering and will be in her zoo habitat intermittently, according to the zoo. Both her and her infant's health are being monitored.
"It was extremely rewarding to see the understanding and collaboration put forth by our talented team and community consultants to provide the necessary care for Indah and her infant," said Meg Sutherland- Smith, director of veterinary services at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. "We will continue to stay vigilant; and at the same time, remain hopeful."
Sumatran and Bornean orangutans are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. According to IUCN, the decline in their population is mainly due to illegal wildlife trafficking and habitat loss from rampant deforestation, which forces them into closer contact with people.
City News Service contributed to this report — Ed.