Brookfield Zoo’s Orangutans

In 2012, I got to visit the Brookfield Zoo with a friend. It is a large, beautiful zoo. However my favorite part, shockingly, was the orangutans. They are located in Tropic World: Asia. There are five orangutans: two adult males, two adult females, and one juvenile female. Maggie and Brunei form one group, and Ben, Sophia, and Kekasih form another. They rotate which group is on exhibit.  




Maggie is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born on July, 18, 1961 at the San Diego Zoo. She is currently the oldest orangutan in an AZA zoo in North America. She was transferred to the Brookfield Zoo in February of 1995 from the Milwaukee Zoo. When she arrived to Brookfield Zoo, Maggie had a weight problem, brittle hair, dry skin, and bad digestion. After some research, the keepers and vet staff discovered that Maggie had a thyroid problem. With training, medicine, and a high fiber diet, Maggie has lost 90 lbs., her hair and skin are healthy, and she is digesting her food just fine. That is an extreme makeover any human would envy.

In April of 1995, Mukah, a former orangutan at the Brookfield Zoo, was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo. He was rejected by his mother soon after birth. A search was put out nationwide for a surrogate mother so he wouldn’t have to be hand-raised. A mother was found in the same city. Maggie, who reared four children of her own, picked Mukah up and raised him as her own. She even began lactating even though she hadn’t given birth in years.










Brunei is male hybrid orangutan. He was born On March 29, 1991 at the Brookfield Zoo. Over the last few years, Brunei has gone from a scrawny, shy orangutan to a husky, confident orangutan. Maturation of Brunei has given him an “extreme makeover” as well. Now that he has the muscles and the cheek pads, Brunei tries to show off to the other male, Ben. Brunei will flex his arms and hold heavy objects over his head to show Ben he is strong and to be feared. Ben though also has a fun side. He loves enrichment, especially if it involves food. Then again, who doesn’t?








Kekasih is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born October 6, 2008 at the Brookfield Zoo to Sophia and Ben. She has made a friend with a white-cheeked gibbon earlier this year. Recently the BZ combined the orangutans and gibbons into one exhibit. Multi-species exhibits provide lots of enrichment for all species involved. It creates a more natural habitat for the animals. The young white-cheeked gibbon and Kekasih have bonded and have been seen playing with each other.









Sophia is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born on February 18, 1981 at the Brownsville Zoo. She was transferred to the Brookfield Zoo in July 1992 from the San Diego Zoo. As an infant, Sophia had to be hand-raised by humans because her mother rejected her. Because orangutans learn behaviors from their mothers, Sophia did not know how to be a proper mom to her offspring. However because orangutans are intelligent and can learn by example, keepers were able to successfully teach Sophia how to hold, feed, and care for her infant. She was the first orangutan to be taught from humans how to be a good mother. 


Ben is a male Bornean orangutan. He was born on October 8, 1978 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. He was transferred from the Omaha Zoo to Brookfield in July 1992. Ben is the father of Kekasih.





Phoenix Zoo

I was planning on visiting the Phoenix Zoo on July 1. My trip was canceled though due to record breaking temperatures. The PZoo is mainly outdoors and I didn’t want to battle the heat without shade. I was highly disappointed though because the Phoenix Zoo is the only zoo in Arizona with orangutans. There are three orangutans residing at this zoo:  mother, father, and daughter. In Spring of 2011, the PZoo opened up Orang-Hutan: “People of the Forest.” This new facility gave a large outdoor exhibit and two indoor exhibits for the orangutans to roam around. In June of 2012, the oldest living orangutan at the time, Duchess, passed due to cancer.


Photo: Our first birthday wish today is going out to Bornean female Bess at the Phoenix Zoo.  Bess is turning 35 today!  Let's hope Kasih and Michael let her celebrate in peace!  She looks so much like her mom Duchess in this pic :)Photo Credit - Denise Wagner

Photo credit: Denise Wagner

Bess is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born at the Phoenix Zoo on March 26, 1979 to Duchess. She is the mother of Kasih and the mate of Michael. Kasih is her first offspring. Bess is shy and uses the large exhibit to keep her distance away from Michael. However she is bright and learns new behaviors very easily. Something she taught herself was if she got her hand wet by the misters and held it over her head, she would keep herself cool.


Photo: We're back in Phoenix for Bornean male Michael's 26th birthday!  I know it will be a great time, Denise and Bob really know how to throw a good party!Photo Credit - Denise Wagner

Photo credit: Denise Wagner

Michael is a male Bornean orangutan. He was born at the Los Angeles Zoo on March 27, 1987. He was transferred to the Phoenix Zoo in October 2000. He is Kasih’s father. He is the dominant orangutan in the group and has an outgoing, comedic personality. He loves playing with enrichment will play tricks on the keepers, such as spitting water at them.


Photo: We are also celebrating the 7th birthday of Bornean female Kasih at the Phoenix Zoo!  Kasih is the daughter of the lovely Bess and handsome Michael and the granddaughter of the one and only Duchess.  We know Denise and Bob are making this day extra special for this feisty little lady! Happy Birthday Kasih!

Photo Credit - Denise Wagner

Photo credit: Denise Wagner

Kasih is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born at the Phoenix Zoo on January 27, 2006. She is a playful young orangutan. Before her grandmother, Duchess, died, Kasih would play around with her the most. She has characteristics of both her parents: shy, sensitive, and comedic. Another personality trait is intuition. She has correctly predicted outcomes to Cardinal’s games and the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.


Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

The Orangutan Forest was opened in 2005. It is 15 times larger than the old orangutan exhibit, which is great. The trees have timed enrichment traps, so the orangutans get the enrichment at various times throughout the day. These traps encourage the orangutans to seek and find the food throughout the trees, a natural behavior.



Sepilok is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born on July 22, 2001 at the Hong Kong Zoo. She transferred to the Omaha Zoo in September of 2003. Sepilok is the name of an orangutan rehabilitation facility in Sandakan, Malaysia. Sepilok* was hanging around Amoi and climbing on the net while I was watching them.



Yasmine is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born on February 17, 1978 at the Twycross Zoo in England. She was transferred to the Omaha Zoo in September of 2003 from Hong Kong. Yasmin is moving to another zoo soon to go live with a male orangutan. Yasmine* was cuddled up with a blanket in a branch when I went. She was really cute.



Amoi is a female Bornean orangutan. She was born at the Omaha Zoo on May 3, 2003. One enrichment she enjoys is playing in the sawdust and foraging for food items and toys. At the Zoo, Amoi* and another female were sitting next to each other by the net; alternating between relaxing and playing.



W’gasa is a male orangutan. He was born on March 2, 2005 at the Omaha Zoo. W’gasa enjoys food enrichment. Last February he was given a frozen heart made out of koolaid. He joyously was sucking at it and eating it. W’gasa is a very active, young orangutan who likes to interact with the public. When I was at the zoo, he was doing the splits on the exhibit wall and reaching out to the guests. I got a good picture of him. Unfortunately it is a dark picture.



Credit: April Gossmann

Chip is a Bornean male orangutan. He was born on January 29, 1993 at the Rochester Zoo. He was transferred to the Omaha Zoo in November of 1998. When I went to the Omaha Zoo, Chip was chilling in the left exhibit. He was on the ground in the shade relaxing.

Tukang Susu:


Tukang Susu is a Bornean male orangutan. He was born on January 27, 1998 at the Pittsburg Zoo. His name means “The Milkman.” The events following his birth changed how the zoo community worked with orangutans. As a baby, Tukang suffered a few medical crises. Also Ember, a female orangutan, took Tukang from his mother, Kim. Kim was not successful in getting him back. As a result, Ember ended up raising him. During Tukang’s second medical issue, both Ember and Kim were pregnant. Because Tukang was still a baby, it was worried that Tukang wouldn’t get the proper care from Ember, especially with his medical issues. To ensure all orangutans would get the proper care, orangutan husbandry changed over to behavior training using positive reinforcement. The results were transformative for the orangutans, staff, and the world. Orangutans that were once distrustful and distant, were interactive and trusting.

*I am not sure if I got the correct pictures of the three females. I am only guessing.


  • Farmarie, M. (2001). Response To A Medical Crisis: A New Approach To Orangutan Husbandry At The Pittzburg Zoo and Aquarium. The apes: challenges for the 21st century, conference proceedings (pp. 112-115). Chicago: Chicago Zoological Society.
  •  Laukaitis, A. J. (2005, May 26). Orangutans get new exibit at Omaha zoo : The Lincoln Journal Star Online. Lincoln Journal Star Online : Lincoln’s news leader. Retrieved July 15, 2013, from
  •  Machain, C. (2012, February 14). Valentine’s Day at the zoo | Viewfinder. Viewfinder | Photos and video from the staff of the Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved July 15, 2013, from
  • Perkins, Lori. International Studbook of the Orangutan. Chicago: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2002. Print.

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s Orangutans

The Fort Wayne Zoo has three orangutans. The orangutan exhibit at the FWCZ is pretty innovative. It is modeled after the the rainforest, the orangutan’s natural habitat. The viewing window of the exhibit is placed vertically halfway on the front wall. Through it you can see lots of trees scattered around the exhibit. The floor is normally covered with water to discourage the orangutans from going down there. This is to encourage the natural behavior of orangutans spending the majority of their time in trees. The keepers place blankets and other materials in the exhibit so the orangutans can make nests to sleep on at night.


Credit: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:

Tengku is the only male at the FWCZ. He is a Sumatran orangutan who was born at Zoo Atlanta on July 3, 1986. He came to FWCZ in April of 1995. His favorite enrichment item is anything dealing with food. When I was at the zoo, I saw Tengku carrying around a blanket in the tree tops. Tengku had one baby with another Sumatran orangutan named Sayang. Tengku was the lucky one that got to pick the name of the baby. Presented with two options, Tengku used a paint brush to pick the name Dumadi. Sayang unfortunately died though soon after labor and Dumadi was transferred to Zoo Atlanta to be reared by a foster mother.


Credit: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:

Melati is a hybrid orangutan. She was born on November 19, 1984 at the Yerkeys Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She moved to the FWCZ in April of 1995. Her favorite enrichment item is ice treats, especially on a hot day. 🙂 She is not on breeding recommendation because she is a hybrid. It is important for the conservation of a species to maintain genetic diversity by only breeding within a species.


Credit: Columbus Zoo: Katrina McCauley/Jane McEvoy:

Tara is the newest orangutan at the FWCZ. She was brought here from the Columbus Zoo to be a mate for Tengku. She is a Sumatran orangutan and was born at the Rio Grande Zoo on April 1, 1995. Her favorite enrichment item is not the PVC feeder, but the end cap. She likes to eat food from it and play with it. She is outgoing and playful.


Kansas City Zoo Orangutans

In early May, I got to visit the Kansas City Zoo. I got a personal tour from one of my friends, a zookeeper in the Discovery section. It was unfortunately a rainy, cold day so a lot of the animals were not outside. However I got to see the animals I mainly wanted to see, the orangutans. Thanks to their inside enclosure. Three orangutans were hanging out by the window, checking me out as I checked them out. The baby especially was adorable. Kali, who shares my name, followed me along the glass and made funny faces. She was too adorable. There are 6 orangutans at the KCZ, split into two groups: Berani and TK; Rufus, Jill, Josie, and Kalijon.


Photo: Orangutan

Rufus is a Bornean orangutan who was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on October 8, 1988. He was at the Hogle Zoo for a bit before being transferred to the KCZ in May 2003. He is Jill’s partner. When I visited, he was hanging out on the fire hose swing. Kali came and interacted with him a bit, but went back to the window.




Jill is a Bornean orangutan who was born at the Los Angeles Zoo on May 25, 1976. She was transferred to the KSZ in October of 1988. Jill is Josie’s mother and Kali’s surrogate mother. After her partner died, Jill was paired with Rufus for companionship. While pregnant with Josie, Jill was monitored by scientists.  Her’s was the first pregnancy to be followed completely through. This allowed the scientists to learn more about orangutans and potentially about their behavior in the wild. While I was at the KCZ, Jill was hanging out by the window and interacted with Kali. Jill was living in the stall next to Kali as she was being hand reared by the keepers. She was very attentive too, telling the keepers when Kali needed to be cared for.


Josie is a Bornean orangutan and was born on June 8, 2002 at the Kansas City Zoo. Her father died while she was very young. Rufus is a kind of adoptive father. Her and Kali have been increasingly getting along as she as gotten older. They will occasionally play together. Josie will even carry Kali around. One enrichment Josie enjoys is painting.


Photo: Bornean female Kalijon (Kali) is celebrating her 4th birthday today at the Kansas City Zoo!  Happy Birthday Kali!Photo Credit - Stacie Beckett

Credit goes to Stacie Beckett of the Kansas City Zoo

Kali is the latest star of the orangutan clan at the KCZ. She was born on April 24, 2009 at the KCZ to TK and Berani. TK, though, didn’t want to raise Kali, so the keepers had to step in. The keepers and volunteers took turns feeding, playing, and watching out for Kali. After about 5 months, Kali was handed over to Jill to care for. Jill took to her right away. Kali is enthusiastic and like to interact with guests, at least she did with me. Check out the video at She was tapping on  the glass and making silly faces.


Photo: Our Earth Day birthday wish today goes out to Bornean female TK at the Kansas City Zoo.  Happy 28th Birthday TK!Photo Credit - Laura Laverick

Credit: Laura Laverick of the Kansas City Zoo. 2013.

TK is a Bornean orangutan who was born on April 22, 1985 at the Omaha Zoo. TK is Berani’s partner. She is also Kali’s biological mother. However TK couldn’t master the skill of holding Kali near her nipple so she could nurse. The keepers tried as soon as they received TK to train her these motherly skills. TK has mothered two previous orangutans, but those too had to be hand reared. She was a loving mother, but never nursed the babies. She would instead hold them on her head. Her and Berani bonded instantly when put together in 2008. This last birthday she enjoyed crepe paper, color books, chalk, and sleep. Who doesn’t deserve rest and relaxation on their birthday?


Berani is a Bornean orangutan who was born on June 27, 1999 at the Lowry Park Zoo. He was transferred to the KCZ in 2008 to breed with TK. Him and TK are very fond of each other. Berani is very fond of enrichment, especially yummy treats.

St. Louis Zoo Orangutans

St. Louis Zoo Orangutans

I got the chance to go visit the St. Louis Zoo a few weeks ago. The St. Louis Zoo is beautiful, big, and has great exhibits. My personal favorite was the penguin/puffin exhibit. It was indoors and the temperature was set at 45 degrees F to make you feel like you are in their habitat. The penguins and puffins swam up right next to you, where you could potentially touch them, but it is heavily discouraged.

The orangutan exhibit was hard to find, for me anyways, but I also get lost easily. Lol. But I did eventually find it and it was nice. Grass, plants, and branches covered their exhibit where they were lying and rolling around. The young orangutan was carrying a blanket to cover up in and played a little bit with the adults. There are three orangutans at the STZ, one male and two females.


Merah is the mother. She was born at the Wassanaar Zoo in Holland on May 13, 1969. She is 44 years old. The keepers describe her as “patient, calculating, and picky.” When building her nest, she finds just the right materials that will make the nest nice and cozy for her baby girl, Rubih. She has great patience with her daughter as she plays with her, and in enrichment. She utilizes sticks to get honey out of nests. Orangutans are one of the few animals to make tools. Other enrichment Merah enjoys is cloth. She will throw on a t-shirt or turn it into a cape. How inventive is that!




Rubih is the daughter of Merah. She was born on June 24, 2004 at the St. Louis Zoo. Rubih showed a keen interest in learning as soon as she could. She explores her surroundings very eagerly. To inspect something, she first puts it in her mouth to taste it, even dirt. Gross! She especially likes to chew on the branches and leaves in her exhibit. Rubih is a big momma’s girl and learns her behaviors from Merah. For example, Rubih learned to scratch her back on the wall by viewing her mother.



Robert B.

Robert B. is the newest orangutan at the St. Louis Zoo. He is 20 years old. He was brought there from Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in June 2011 on breeding recommendation from the SSP. Juara, the previous male orangutan, died in August of 2010. Robert B. will replace him as Merah’s mate. Robert B. is an outgoing orangutan who loves to visit with the zoo guests. He’ll sit by the glass and watch the visitors. He enjoys viewing cameras and jewelry also.





Indianapolis Zoo’s Orangutans (soon-to-be)

Yesterday I got to go to the Indianapolis Zoo with some good friends. The zoo is building a new Orangutan Conservation Center due to open in 2014. It will be the largest orangutan exhibit in the world!! They already have 8 orangutans that will be presented when the center opens. It should be exciting!!

Azy was born on December 14, 1977 at the National Zoo. He’s been at the Indy Zoo since 2010. ‘Azy was the first orangutan to participate in cognitive research using computer-generated symbols. Azy began this work at the National Zoo, where he lived at the Think Tank exhibit and participated in the Orangutan Language Project starting in 1995. Azy is eager to learn new tasks, especially those that provide a mental challenge, and he enjoys collaborating with human research partners. Azy is a peacekeeper, and does not tolerate fighting among the females in his social group. His relationship with Rocky and all of the females is excellent. In general, female orangutans find him very attractive. Everyone who knows Azy regard him as inquisitive, gentle, and a great role model for young males.’

Knobi was born on September 30, 1979 at the Henry Doorly Zoo. Since 2010, she has been at the Indy Zoo. ‘She is very maternal, and immediately adopted Rocky when they were introduced in 2008. She treats him as her son, although she has never had offspring of her own. Knobi has Type II diabetes that is managed very well with a proper diet and lots of activity, and she does not require medication. Knobi has a gentle disposition but is very socially confident. Knobi and Rocky play together on a daily basis. She has an excellent relationship with Azy, and they spend lots of time with each other.’

Katy was born on December 18, 1988 and into the entertainment industry. Many regard Katy as the most beautiful female orangutan they’ve ever seen. She has a passive nature, but recently has become more confident around the other orangutans and invites interactions with them. She also solicits interactions with people she favors, frequently using her whistling skills to get their attention. Katy is Rocky’s biological mother, but she did not raise him.

What is Katy’s disposition? Like many orangutans, Katy frequently chooses to spend time alone. However, she can be very playful and enjoys being tickled by people she trusts. She regularly initiates play with Rocky. Katy is a quick learner, with a fondness for puzzles. We predict that she will excel at computer-based tasks.

ROCKY  Born: September 25, 2004
Lived Where: Private ownership in the entertainment industry, birth to 2008; Great Ape Trust, 2008-2010; Indianapolis Zoo, 2010-present.

What makes Rocky unique? Rocky has a very unusual background. While in private ownership, he was the most visible orangutan in the entertainment industry. He was raised by a number of different people and did not live with other orangutans until he was 3-and-a-half years old. Young orangutans normally stay with their mothers until they are at least seven years old. He readily accepted Knobi as his adopted mom when they were introduced in 2008. She taught Rocky how to behave with other orangutans.

What is Rocky’s disposition? Happily, Rocky is a typical young male orangutan. He is energetic, extremely playful, needs lots of attention, and can sometimes be a pest. He invites play from all of the other orangutans, but most often plays with Knobi. He is remarkably bright and always ready to learn.

CHARLY  Born: March 7, 1994
Lived Where: Private ownership in the entertainment industry prior to moving to the Indianapolis Zoo, 2010-present.

What makes Charly unique
? Charly has had limited opportunities to socialize with other orangutans. This will be an important opportunity for him at the Indianapolis Zoo. He’s also a relatively small adult male, especially compared to Azy. Charly has developed trusting and playful relationships with his caretakers, and these social interactions motivate him much more than food. He quickly learns and responds to requests from people he trusts.

What is Charly’s disposition
? Charly is shy, but his confidence is growing and he can be very playful. We look forward to seeing his full personality emerge over time. Upon arrival at the Zoo, Charly was very suspicious of sheets, blankets, and soft nesting materials. He now uses these things to make elaborate beds to sleep in every night.

LUCY  Born: February 11, 1984
Lived Where: Private ownership in the entertainment industry prior to moving to the Indianapolis Zoo, 2010-present.

What makes Lucy unique? Lucy has had fairly limited opportunities to socialize with other orangutans, but is thriving in a social group with Azy, Knobi, Katy, and Rocky. She is known for her sweet, soulful eyes. She is a champion nest builder and makes extra-large and elaborate beds to sleep in every night.

What is Lucy’s disposition
? Lucy is very gentle and loves attention from her trusted caretakers. She has a dominant personality around the other orangutans, although she regularly plays with Rocky. She does not hesitate to correct him if he misbehaves. Lucy seeks out attention from Azy and is developing a great relationship with him.

BENNY  Born: March 6, 1979
Lived Where: Private ownership in the entertainment industry before moving to Zoo Atlanta. Planned move to the Indianapolis Zoo in late 2013 for acclimatization to the new International Orangutan Center.

What makes Benny unique? Like some of the other orangutans that came from entertainment, Benny has had limited opportunities to socialize with other orangutans.  Happily, he is now living full time with two females, and Benny interacts with them in normal and healthy ways.  This positive social change for Benny is a wonderful demonstration of his personality, as well as the excellent care he has received.  Benny is also Rocky’s biological father, and we look forward to providing him with the possibility to reproduce again in the near future.

What is Benny’s disposition?   Benny’s personality has started to emerge.  He now behaves much more like a fully mature adult male and displays and vocalizes which demonstrates that he has confidence and a sense of security.

NICKY  Born: July 1, 1984
Lived Where: Private ownership in the entertainment industry before moving to Zoo Atlanta. Planned move to the Indianapolis Zoo in late 2013 for acclimatization to the new International Orangutan Center.

What makes Nicky unique?  In the past, Nicky regularly interacted with other female orangutans, but rarely spent time with any males. Her current setting allows her to have more social flexibility.  She can now socialize with Benny and another young female, which is a very positive change for her.  Like most female orangutans, food is a very high priority for her. She has responded very well to the healthy and varied diet that she receives.

What is Nicky’s disposition?  It’s easy to summarize Nicky’s personality.  She is remarkably sweet and calm.  Although she is not related to Lucy, they look very much alike and share the same overall demeanor. We predict that she and Azy will develop an exceptionally good relationship.

*All information was copied verbatim from the Indianapolis Zoo website in May 18, 2013.