A critically-endangered Bornean orangutan has just been born at Chester Zoo

Conservationists have called the birth a "positive step in the right direction" for the protection of the highly-threatened species.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 8th September 2023

A rare Bornean orangutan has just been born at Chester Zoo, and it’s a seriously important moment for the critically-endangered species.

Primate conservationists at the UK’s biggest charity zoo are celebrating the “precious” new arrival – who was born to doting parents, Sarikei and Willie, last week – and have also shared the first images and videos of the adorable new baby.

The birth is a “positive step in the right direction” for the protection of the highly-threatened species.

The world’s authority on the state of nature, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), sadly lists Bornean orangutans as critically-endangered in the wild, and ranks them as one of the species which requires the highest conservation priority in the world.

This is because rampant habitat destruction has seen the lush rainforests of Borneo cleared for agriculture, logging, and unsustainable oil palm plantations, and the massive loss of this habitat, coupled with illegal hunting, and conflict with farmers when orangutans enter areas where their forest homes once stood, means the animals have been to the very edge of existence.


But luckily, Chester Zoo‘s newborn orangutan will join a European-wide conservation breeding programme.

The aim of the programme is the boost the population of the rare primate in conservation zoos.

A critically-endangered Bornean orangutan has been born at Chester Zoo / Credit: Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo has been working with its conservation partners, HUTAN, in protecting wild orangutans in Borneo for more than 20 years now.

On top of this, experts have been carrying out research in the Kinabatangan – which is home to one of the largest populations of orangutans in the Sabah region of the island – to gain a better understanding of how orangutans are adapting to an increase in oil palm plantations, and the new landscapes which they have created.

A team of zoo primatologists has also helped to create special ‘orangutan bridges’ on the island – which are designed to “connect pockets of fragmented forest”, and aid orangutans in “moving safely between different areas”, the Zoo says.


“The birth of an animal that’s so rare is always something to celebrate,” admits Mark Brayshaw, who is the Head of Mammals at Chester Zoo.

“Seeing the new baby in the arms of mum Sarikei is incredibly special, because she’s a great mum and has spent the first few days cradling her baby closely, feeding it regularly, and building close bonds, [which are] all the signs are great so far.

“With the newborn just a few days old, we’ve not yet managed to clearly identify if it’s male or female [but] what’s most important is that there’s another healthy Bornean orangutan on the planet. 

Read more:

“To have a new addition within the international conservation breeding programme that’s working to safeguard the species’ future is a hugely positive step in the right direction.”

Featured Image – Chester Zoo