Jersey Zoo bids farewell to much-loved orangutan as she moves to a new home

Today, Monday 13th June, Jersey Zoo’s beloved orangutan, Kea, is leaving the island for a new home. The adolescent Sumatran orangutan, who turned nine this month, will be travelling to Dortmund Zoo in Germany, where she will be joining a new group of orangutans. 

Sumatran Orangutan at Jersey Zoo

Kea, short for “Keajaiban” – meaning “miracle” in Indonesian – was born at Jersey Zoo on 9th June 2013 to mum, Dana and dad, Dagu. She was aptly given her name because the team at the zoo were told that Dana would never be able to conceive after her previous pregnancy, in which she suffered complications that endangered her health and resulted in a stillborn infant. Following the incident, Dana was left with blocked fallopian tubes, rendering her infertile. However, thanks to the skill and expertise of a local Gynaecologist and Obstetrician, Dr Neil MacLachlan, Dana was able to conceive against the odds and gave birth to her “miracle baby”. 

The birth was the first orangutan birth to be caught on camera and went on to be featured in the BBC documentary “Refugees of the Lost Rainforest”. Watch the footage of the birth here

Since Kea’s birth, she has been an adored member of the zoo's orangutan family, and her cheeky and inquisitive personality has been enjoyed by both staff and visitors alike. She will be greatly missed, but keepers say she is now ready to move on to a new home. 

Sumatran Orangutan 2021 06

Durrell’s Deputy Head of Mammals, Gordon Hunt, who has cared for Kea for nine years and witnessed her “miracle birth”, says, “This stage of Kea’s life is an important time for her to move on. In the wild, young orangutans stay with their mothers until they are approximately eight years old, as they would then leave to live independently and eventually breed and have offspring of their own. In captivity, we try to mimic what would happen in the wild whereby the youngster leaves at around the age of eight or nine. This is the natural break point for them, and by about 15 years of age, females are ready to have offspring of their own.” 

“At Kea’s new home in Germany, she’ll be moving to a similar set-up to Jersey Zoo, with a lovely enclosure and nice group of orangutans, including another youngster of a similar age. We think she’ll have a good life out there and hope she will eventually breed and have babies of her own.” 

“It’s always sad when an animal you spend so much time with moves on to a new home, but it’s essential that she does as it’s all part of her growing up. I think Dana and the rest of the group will miss Kea, and it will certainly have an impact on the keepers who have cared for her over the years, but the group will settle down after a little while, and we have hopes for more baby orangutans at the zoo in the future.” 

Regretfully, the zoo was unable to give notice of Kea’s departure any earlier due to the difficulties they face with moving animals around Europe post-Brexit, meaning all required approvals could only be finalised last week.