Baby orangutan from California arrives at Zoo Atlanta in hopes of being adopted

A 4-month-old Sumatran orangutan named Nangka has arrived safely at Zoo Atlanta from the Sacramento Zoo.

Nangka, who was born May 1, was sent to Atlanta in hopes of being adopted by Madu, a 40-year-old female Sumatran orangutan at Zoo Atlanta who has successfully adopted 4 youngsters over the past 20-plus years.

According to the zoo, it was determined that Nangka's biological mother was unlikely to provide appropriate maternal care – a situation that is not uncommon for first-time orangutan mothers, experts say. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommended that Nangka be transferred to a location with an experienced adoptive mother.

"Nangka has received the best of care from the team in Sacramento, and his well-being has always been everyone’s top priority. The best mother for an orangutan is another orangutan, and we are so glad that we have a resource like Madu, who is a truly extraordinary individual. She is a natural with many years of experience," said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. 

It is vital that infant orangutans be reared by other orangutans, who have a longer childhood than any other terrestrial mammal with the exception of humans (eight to 10 years). 

Although she has no biological offspring of her own, Madu is a remarkable individual with an outstanding track record for adopting infants whose mothers were unwilling or unable to care for them. The two youngest of these, male Remy, 12, and female Keju, 8, continue to reside at Zoo Atlanta.  

With her four previous adopted infants, Madu was trained to bring an infant forward to receive regular bottle feedings from human caregivers, providing all other aspects of maternal care herself. Infants are not removed from her for feeding – she has been trained to bring infants forward for bottle feeding through an indoor mesh barrier – and care team members will not share the same space with Madu.

Zoo Atlanta is home to one of North America’s largest populations of orangutans, now with 10 individuals representing both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.