The Orangu-Twins! Dozy Pair Are Tired Of The Attention After The Rare Feat Of Birth In Captivity

The Hong Kong zoo welcomed two new members to its family of Bornean orangutans. The twin baby orangutans, a male and a female, were born to mother Raba and father Vandu. The birth of these twins is a cause for celebration and an essential milestone in conserving this ᴄʀɪᴛɪᴄᴀʟʟʏ ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ species. The twins were born in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens last Friday, with the male baby weighing 2 kg and the female about 1.4 kg.

The birth of these twins is significant because it is not common for orangutans to give birth to twins in captivity or the wild. According to the Zoo, the chances of twin orangutans being born are only about one in every 10,000 births. The zoo staff was thrilled with the birth news, especially since Raba is a first-time mother. This is the first successful breeding of Bornean orangutan twins in Hong Kong, bringing to five the total number of this primate in the Zoo.

Born on the morning of last Friday, the twins are the two little darlings of Vandu and Raba, the adorable and famous stars of the Gardens. They are both in good health and are being cared for by vets.

The baby twins have yet to be named and are still adapting to their new life before they meet visitors. The twins’ father, the 16-year-old Vandu, was transferred from a zoo in Hungary to Hong Kong in January last year through a conservation breeding program. Mother Raba, now 15 years of age, was born in the Zoo in 1996.

The Bornean orangutan is an ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ primate. Its vast body and lovely appearance have always been the most popular animal in the Zoo.

Since the 1970s, the Hong Kong Zoo has emphasised the breeding and conservation of animals and has been sharing the responsibility to conserve rare and ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ animal species. However, while welcoming the births, the Hong Kong Society for the Prevention of Cʀᴜᴇʟᴛʏ to Animals are unhappy about the ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ species being in the Zoo.

HKSPCA spokeswoman Rebecca Ngan Yee-ling said: ‘The Zoo should find a trustworthy conservation agency to help them transfer to the wild community once they grow up and can survive independently.

‘It should be done as early as possible.’

Ngan thinks Hong Kong’s climate is unsuitable for orangutans and that the Zoo’s facilities are not up to standards.

The 272 square meters and five-meter tall cage for three orangutans, including the twins’ parents Vandu and Raba and another female, consists of a concrete floor, reinforced glass panels, an artificial boulder, a cement-paved pond, and a concrete sleeping platform.

The Zoo seems to agree with Ngan’s latter argument and has already said that their parents’ cage may be expanded, so there is enough space to house the whole family.

There are captive breeding programmes for orangutans, but mainly for the ᴄʀɪᴛɪᴄᴀʟʟʏ ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ Sumatran species, Pongo pygmaeus, whose numbers have been reduced to below seven thousand in the wild.

A successful breeding programme to help the Sumatran species is underway at Perth Zoo, in Australia, with offspring transferred to the wild

Bornean orangutans are native to the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia and are one of the three species of orangutans. They are the largest tree-dwelling mammals known for their intelligence, social behaviour, and ability to use tools. Sadly, their population has declined due to habitat ʟᴏss, ɪʟʟᴇɢᴀʟ ʜᴜɴᴛɪɴɢ, and the pet trade. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that only around 54,000 Bornean orangutans are left in the wild, making them ᴄʀɪᴛɪᴄᴀʟʟʏ ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ.

Most effort to help the Bornean variety is concentrated on preserving its habitat by fighting indiscriminate logging, clearing the jungle for palm oil plantations, and breeding in reserves on its native island.

An educational effort is also underway to persuade families in Asia not to accept them as pets. Up to 2,000 infant orangutans were imported into Taiwan, where they became fashionable after a 1980s TV soap opera featured one as a pet.

Researchers estimate that 6,000 mothers were ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ and 4,000 ᴄᴀᴘᴛᴜʀᴇᴅ babies ᴅɪᴇᴅ to supply the 2,000 pets since only about one-third of those ᴄᴀᴜɢʜᴛ survive.

This was a major ᴅɪsᴀsᴛᴇʀ for a slow-breeding mammal like the orang, as orangutans do not become sᴇxᴜᴀʟʟʏ mature until between 15 and 20 years old.

Happily, Taiwan passed a conservation act in 1989 and introduced an education programme, and it is now winning international respect for its efforts to protect these magnificent apes. Most owners who bought the apes as cute, cuddly infants in the 1980s are happy to pass on adult orangutans to help captive breeding programmes worldwide.

The twins’ birth is a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts. The Bornean orangutan population is rapidly declining, and these animals face numerous ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛs. Zoos and other organizations are working to preserve the species through breeding programs, habitat restoration, and education. The Hong Kong zoo, for example, is part of the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that manages the breeding of ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀᴇᴅ species in North American zoos and aquariums.

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