Orangutan Baby at San Diego Zoo Growing, Gaining Independence

San Diego, California - The 5-month-old Sumatran orangutan at the San Diego Zoo is now starting to climb on her own and move around independent of mother, Indah. Aisha can be seen most mornings exploring the climbing structure in the orangutan habitat, which has swings, ropes and hammocks to climb and play on.

Indah and Aisha are always in close contact, with baby Aisha gripping tightly on mother Indah's orange hair as she swings around the habitat and forages for food. Now that Aisha is getting bigger, guests may see Indah give the youngster a gentle push up onto the ropes to practice her climbing skills.

"Mom is always staying close by but she's definitely letting Aisha go out on her own more," Amanda Jurasek, keeper at the San Diego Zoo said. "She's pushing her to start climbing and teaching her those vital skills she'll need as she gets older," Jurasek said.

While Aisha is still nursing, she is becoming more curious about tasting solid foods and has been observed mouthing at lettuce, grapes, even sampling some peanuts and sunflower seeds. So far though, Indah hasn't been willing to share too much of her vegetarian diet with her youngster.

Even though Aisha is gaining independence, she won't go too far away from Indah. Orangutan youngsters typically stay with their mothers until they're about eight years old, the longest childhood of the great apes. Visitors may see Indah and her curious youngster in their habitat on the Orangutan Trail at the San Diego Zoo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. They also may be watched on the Zoo's Ape Cam at www.sandiegozoo.org/apecam.

Orangutans live in tropical and swamp forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The Sumatran orangutan is considered critically endangered, with an estimate of less than 7,000 remaining in the wild. Their populations have declined drastically in recent years as a result of over-harvesting of timber, human encroachment and habitat conversion to palm oil plantations. Humans can help to protect endangered orangutans by carefully checking ingredient labels and only purchasing products that contain sustainably produced palm oil.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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