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Zoo welcomes surprise orangutan baby after mum returned negative pregnancy tests

Written by on 7 October 2020

An orangutan has surprised keepers at Chester Zoo after giving birth to a baby despite returning negative pregnancy tests.

The infant primate was delivered on 18 June – but mother Leia has hidden her offspring since its birth, so keepers have been unable to get close enough to determine if the baby is male or female.

But the youngster has been described as “bright, alert and suckling well”.

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The infant was born in June despite its mother giving negative pregnancy test results
Undated handout photo issued by Chester Zoo of the Bornean orangutan born to mum Leia at the zoo. With Bornean orangutans critically endangered and at risk of extinction, it comes as a real boost for the species.

Leia had the child with fellow Bornean orangutan Willie.

The species is critically endangered in the wild, with only 55,000 thought to be left on the island of Borneo in Indonesia, according to International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Chris Yarwood, a primate keeper at Chester zoo, said: “The pregnancy tests we had carried out on Leia in the months prior to the birth had actually returned negative results.

“It was therefore a wonderful surprise to arrive one morning to see her protectively cradling a beautiful new arrival.

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“Leia enjoys spending lots of time alone with her baby and has been quite shy about showing it off. She always keeps it really close to her and so we’ve not yet been able to clearly determine what the gender of the infant is.

“What we are sure of though is that the baby is bright, alert and suckling well from mum and has developed well over the last couple of months.”

Undated handout photo issued by Chester Zoo of the Bornean orangutan born to mum Leia at the zoo. With Bornean orangutans critically endangered and at risk of extinction, it comes as a real boost for the species.
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The youngster is mum Leia’s second child
Undated handout photo issued by Chester Zoo of the Bornean orangutan born to mum Leia at the zoo. With Bornean orangutans critically endangered and at risk of extinction, it comes as a real boost for the species.

The infant is Leia’s second, with Mr Yarwood adding “she’s a great mum and is doing a fab job once again”.

Chester is a rare example of a zoo that has both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.

The Sumatran sub-species is critically endangered as well, with 14,000 animals thought to be left in the wild.

Undated handout photo issued by Chester Zoo of the Bornean orangutan born to mum Leia at the zoo. With Bornean orangutans critically endangered and at risk of extinction, it comes as a real boost for the species.
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Some orangutans breastfeed until they are eight years old

Mr Yarwood added: “These are critically endangered animals and, importantly, we’ve seen babies from both sub-species born in recent times.

“It just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world right now, life is carrying on as normal for the orangutans, which is really uplifting to see.”