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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2014 - Updated: 6 months ago

Toledo Zoo seeking new home for baby orangutan whose mother has refused to raise it

BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kecil born Jan. 11 at the Toledo Zoo. Kecil born Jan. 11 at the Toledo Zoo.
TOLEDO ZOO/JUDITH WOLFE Enlarge

The Toledo Zoo is working to find a new home for a baby orangutan whose mother has refused to raise it.

The male primate named Kecil, was born Jan. 11 weighing 3.4 pounds. The mother, named Yasmin, left her baby in a holding area after giving birth and went back to hang with the rest of the orangutan group in the exhibit.

"We knew something was wrong right away," Dr. Randi Meyerson, assistant director of animal programs, said. "The mothers are always holding them. They don’t put them down.”

Yasmin had been sent to the Toledo Zoo last spring from Omaha. She has successfully raised two babies previously, and the zoo was confident she would do so again.

Dr. Meyerson said mothers rejecting their babies isn't common, but isn't rare either.

“It would be more common for first-time moms who haven't done it before," she said. "This definitely surprised us."

Kecil has been hand-reared by the staff while they have attempted over the last several months to reintroduce him to his mother in the hopes she would bond with him and accept him back.

Dr. Meyerson said that while Yasmin showed general interest in Kecil and was trained to let the baby nurse from her while staff fed her treats to encourage her, she simply did not show any desire to raise the baby herself.

There's no way to determine why Yasmin rejected Kecil, but Dr. Meyerson said one theory is that she may have had a difficult labor that somehow affected her desire to care for the baby. Yasmin was fully examined by veterinarians and is healthy.

The zoo is working with the Orangutan Species Survival Plan and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to place Kecil with a surrogate mother, but a new zoo has not yet been selected. Kecil has been trained to receive milk from a bottle given by keepers through training mesh as a surrogate will not have a milk supply. But the surrogate will rear him in all other ways.

“The best thing for him is to be raised by another orangutan," Dr. Meyerson said. 

Kecil, now 8.27 pounds, will not be on exhibit with the zoo's six orangutans in the Kingdom of the Apes before he is transferred.

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.



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