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First Orangutan Birth Captured on Video in Bukit Tigapuluh

Orangutan Alda's first baby is the 11th orangutan born in the jungle of Bukit Tigapuluh. For the first time ever we managed to catch the birth on camera.

23 years old Alda is pregnant.jpg
Alda is a 23 year old Sumatra Orangutan who was kept as a pet for more than 20 years. Now, at 23, she is free, and a new mom.

Alda is a Sumatran orangutan who once lived as a pet. For almost 20 years, she was trapped in a small cage, chained up by her owner. Hope came in 2014 when Alda was confiscated by government officials, and received intensive care at the quarantine centre for Sumatran orangutans (SOCP-YEL) in Medan. Too big to join a jungle school where young orangutans learn to live in the wild, Alda was released directly to the reintroduction centre (SORC Pengian) in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park.


Alda has trouble chewing stem or forest fruits as a result of losing several teeth while living on an unsuitable diet in captivity. She was lacking the skills to survive in the wild. Especially foraging was a big challenge for Alda, and sometimes she was barely eating. Initially, she was supplied daily with local fruits and milk by project staff. Later, she met Win Gayo - a fully flanged, dominant male orangutan - near the research station. The pair mated and travelled together for several months. Win Gayo shared his food and nest, helping Alda to survive. In early June 2016, Alda was pregnant and tended to travel alone in the forest. Her pregnancy was expected to become a burden but actually encouraged her foraging activity. Soon, she willingly ate various forest food items such as rattan stem, ants, and sebekal leaves. A big step forward!

Eight months later

Alda was travelling with Joko for a few days in May 2016.
Alda (left) and her companion Jako in the jungle.

One day in early January 2018, orangutan trackers Delima and Fahriza and veterinarian Yuli found Alda in the forest to check on her condition. Alda was excited to see the team, who had brought some fruit for her, and eagerly climbed down. Unexpectedly, she suddenly stopped eating and retreated to her nest. Later, she became restless, obsessed with rebuilding her home in the trees. From this behaviour, the team concluded that Alda was about to give birth. Delima rushed to the station for a camera. Upon returning, he bolted up a tree, finding a position from which to monitor her. Three hours later, after a lot of effort from Alda, a male baby orangutan was born into the world! Delima was able to catch this rare event on camera from below and a shaky video documents this special day.


Alda cleaned his body and his mouth and nose thoroughly and then the baby’s first cries echoed through the forest. Alda held and suckled him, stopping his crying. She really surprised us with her motherly instincts.

However, Alda’s protective behaviour meant we could not get a baby photo. She hid her son under her arm so project staff only caught a glimpse of his face. The ones who managed to see him said he was very cute with soft yellowish hair covering his body. His eyes were closed and his hands were so tiny - adorable! For a while, Alda avoided FZS staff and spent most of the time in her nest. As she was seen trembling and weak after the exhausting birth, she was given food and a milk supply to keep her healthy. Fortunately, Alda was fully recovered after several days.  

A lucky day for FZS stuff

Alda’s baby is the 11th baby orangutan born in the jungle of Bukit Tigapuluh. And it was a lucky day for FZS staff to film such a special moment for the first time. They have missed all 10 orangutan births in the last 15 years, despite preparing several months in advance each time. Female orangutans would travel far away, several days before giving birth and would return to the station days, weeks or months later with their baby. We hope that Alda and her baby will be independent someday so they can freely roam in Bukit Tigapuluh. We are so proud of you Alda!
Unfortunately, Alda lost her baby three weeks later. She sufferes from anemia and therefore the baby didn’t get enough milk. Alda’s theeth are in bad condition due to the unsuitable food she had to eat during the 20 years she lived as a pet. She can‘t chew the food properly so she didn’t get enough nutrition to produce milk for her baby.

The veterinary staff in Sumatra did everything they could to save Alda’s life: She received blood transfusion and several teeth needed to be removed. Now, her condition is improving week by week.
Hopefully Alda will get well soon, so maybe in the future she can have another baby, in the forest of Bukit TIgapuluh. We are so proud of you Alda!
Text: Dr. Andhani Widya (FZS Sumatra-Project)

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