COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Columbus Zoo’s great ape family is growing by two, as they prepare for the birth of two endangered apes – a bonobo and Bornean orangutan.
The mother orangutan, 17-year-old Khali, and bonobo, 18-year-old Faith, are entering the later stages of their pregnancies and are expected to give birth in late fall of this year.
Orangutans are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, while bonobos are classified as endangered.
During spring time this year, Khali was observed breeding with a 30-year-old orangutan named Sulango. The pairing of Khali and Sulango was recommended by the Species Survival Plan, a program that aims to maintain genetic diversity of endangered species. Khali will be a first-time mother.
Around the same time that Khali was being observed for pregnancy, zookeepers were also monitoring Faith after she was observed breeding with a 19-year-old bonobo named Gander. Since bonobos are humans’ closest living relatives, a human pregnancy test was administered and showed a positive result. Faith is a second-time mother, having previously given birth to one other baby.
Gander is most likely the father of Faith’s baby, but the zoo will confirm this through a DNA test after the baby is born.
According to the Columbus Zoo, Khali and Faith voluntarily participated in ultrasound imaging that confirmed their pregnancies. They have continued to participate in regular ultrasounds, which have shown that both babies are developing well.
The ultrasound imaging isn’t used to determine the sex of the babies; the animal care team will determine the sex after they are born.
This is the first time in over 60 years that the zoo’s animal care team is preparing for the birth of a Bornean orangutan. Additionally, the birth of the bonobo will mark the first bonobo born in the United States in three years, and the first bonobo born at the zoo since 2016.