Explore Blog: Houston Zoo Baby Orangutan Adopted by Surrogate Mother

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The Explore blog brings you exciting, informative, and inspiring wildlife conservation features, zoo and aquarium stories, and profiles. Be sure to visit http://wildexplorer.org to get your wild animal fix!

What we saw was an orangutan mom who is experienced and nuanced in her care

After months of around-the-clock hand-raising by a team of 50 trained care givers, Aurora – the Houston Zoo’s baby Bornean orangutan – has finally been adopted by surrogate orangutan mother, Cheyenne.

Aurora was abandoned by her mother, Kelly, shortly after her birth in early March of 2011. Concerned for Aurora’s welfare, the Houston Zoo primate care team decided to step in and hand-rear the infant. After nine months of dedicated 24-hour care, always in view of the Zoo’s other orangutans, Cheyenne began to take interest in Aurora.

“As Aurora became more independent of her care givers, moving about more on her own, the primate care team taught her to go through what’s called a ‘creep door’, a very small opening in doors between rooms in the off exhibit night house at Wortham World of Primates,” said Assistant Curator of Primates Lynn Killam.

At first, “Aurora chose not to go completely through it, instead touching and playing with Cheyenne through the small gap as Cheyenne reached her arm through,” explains Killam. But when she was finally comfortable enough to come through the door, “Cheyenne picked her up and carried her across the room,” said Killam, and for the next seven hours Cheyenne and Aurora were inseparable.

AZA zoos, like the Houston Zoo, contribute to and participate in orangutan conservation projects all over the world. To learn more about the Houston Zoo’s Bornean orangutan conservation initiative, visit http://www.houstonzoo.org/bornean-orangutan-conservation/.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. To learn more visit http://www.aza.org.


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Elise Waugh
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
(301) 562-0777 x236
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