Mango, a 26-year old male Sumatran orangutan, recently relocated from the Metro Zoo in Miami to his new home at Rolling Hills Zoo (RHZ). Born March 19, 1992 at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Mango had recently lost his mate at Metro Zoo and was being housed with the gibbons.
It was on the recommendation of the SSP (Species Survival Program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), that Mango become a companion to Rusa, a 38 year old female orangutan at RHZ who lost her mate, Clyde, last year. While Mango could be recommended for breeding in the future as he has no offspring, for now both he and Rusa are needing companionship.
To make the transfer as smooth as possible, Christine Ashcraft, great ape keeper at RHZ, flew to Miami on May 21st to meet Mango prior to his arrival at RHZ on May 25th. She spent two days with Mango and his keepers, not only to learn more about him and his current care, but to also provide Mango with a familiar face upon his arrival in Kansas. When making the move, both a keeper as well as a staff veterinarian from Zoo Miami traveled with Mango during transport. The keeper then stayed an extra day to help him settle in after his arrival at RHZ. This process is not uncommon when moving great apes from one zoo to another. Not only does this process help in the orangutan’s transition, but it is also a great opportunity for RHZ’s keepers to see his personality in his former home and good for his former keepers to see his new home.
Once Mango arrived at RHZ he was placed in quarantine for 30 days, which is the practice for any animal coming into the zoo, and did very well during quarantine. Mango has a calm demeanor and is an eager participant in behavioral training sessions with the keepers. Now that the 30 day quarantine has been completed, Mango has been transferred to the orangutan exhibit in the Great Ape Exhibit for introductions to Rusa.
Was it love at first sight?
In preparing both orangutans for their future introductions, the keepers of both zoos traded photos and videos of their respective orangutans to share with the orangutan at their zoo. Initially the response to the photos and videos was very positive on both sides.
Then in the first few days of introductions, the keepers at RHZ were very optimistic about how these two orangutans were responding to each other. On the second day both were coming together mesh to mesh, and once they were allowed on the patio together, Mango and Rusa touched forehead to forehead and Mango fed Rusa his food. Now that they are living in the same habitat, both are keeping a watchful eye on the other just to make sure that the other one is still there, and both continue to exhibit a gentle caring for the other. While Mango still retreats to the bedroom for security and rest, he freely explores his new habitat.
“They are off to a good start and we are hopeful that they will be long term companions,” shared Brenda Gunder, RHZ Curator. “She definitely is an orangutan that benefits when she is with other orangutans, and with the loss of Mango’s mate, he will also benefit from the companionship of another orangutan as well.”
At this time Mango can choose to be in the day room or off exhibit as he continues to familiarize himself with his new home, and only he will determine when he is ready to be on exhibit on a regular basis with Rusa.