Melbourne orangutan celebrates milestone birthday

Published: 12 October 2017 Image credit: Zoos Victoria


Santan, one of Melbourne Zoo’s favourite Sumatran Orangutans, is celebrating the big 4-0, and zoo keepers put on a festive bash this morning by showering him with gifts and treats.

Born in Toronto Zoo, Canada, Santan arrived in Australia in 1987 as part of an international breeding program to increase the primate species’ rapidly decreasing numbers.

Orangutans are listed as a critically endangered species, and Santan has worked as an ambassador – contributing to the breeding program by fathering three offspring, 27-year-old Gabby, 14-year-old Malu and six-year-old Dewi.

Santan is also Zoo Victoria’s face of the ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign, which aims to protect what little natural habitat is left for orangutans. Palm oil plantations and deforestation have devastated the Sumatran region, and it is estimated that fewer than 3500 animals remain in the wild.

The ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign is petitioning to force Ministers in Australia to change the laws regarding the use of palm oil in food, so that it is more clearly marked. As it stands, companies are legally allowed to list palm oil as ‘vegetable oil’, meaning many people do not know what they are actually consuming.

Sumatran orangutans can reach 1.5m in height and weigh up 90kg, making them the largest tree-dwelling mammals in the world. Mostly solitary animals, orangutans rarely make their way to the ground, preferring to build nests in the canopies and foraging for fruit.