Matra, the orangutan, becomes mum of two

Following the birth of a boy to Matra, the orangutan, in early October, the female orangutan Jahe also welcomed a baby into the world on 24 October. For Jahe, who at the age of 13 is a relatively young and inexperienced mother, this represents her first successful pregnancy. 41-year-old Matra has therefore taken on the role of raising both orangutan babies with loving care.

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Susanne Bihler

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Susanne Bihler

Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Sarah Held

For several days now, the zookeepers have noticed that in addition to her own son Matra is carrying a second baby in her arms and breastfeeding both infants. However the two orangutan babies are not twins, but half-siblings. The father of the two new arrivals is Bruno, the head of the group, while the mother of the younger of the two infants is Jahe, who is only 13 years old and therefore relatively young and inexperienced. Jahe gave birth a few weeks after Matra but was overwhelmed a few hours after delivery and gave the baby to the experienced Matra. The older orangutan mum is now taking care of both newly born babies. "As long as Matra produces enough milk, which she does, she can raise the two babies without any problem," says curator Beatrix Köhler. "The fact that Matra is caring for both babies is not so uncommon. This behaviour is known to occur among orangutans in their natural habitat as well as in zoos. In the past, zoos have observed that the most experienced mum in the group takes care of all new offspring. This is a great relief for Jahe. One can observe that although she always watches Matra from afar, she is not interested in the child.

Matra, who has lived at Hellabrunn since 1993, is now a mother in her own right for the sixth time. She is therefore a very experienced and loving mum. Her daughter Jolie, born in 2009 at Hellabrunn, also lives with her. She and the other female members of the group, Sitti and Isalie, have now become accustomed to the new situation with the two new babies. Jolie, in particular, spends a lot of time by Matra's side and often tries to get some of her mum's milk.

"To give Matra some privacy with the babies we have decided to create a temporary retreat space that will be screened off from the public, placing greater distance between the visitors and the animals", explains Köhler. "This allows Matra to decide when she wants to show off her offspring." Furthermore, the retreat space and the screen, which will be in place until further notice, will also ensure that the other orangutans continue to feel at ease in the group. "Bruno, in particular, loves the attention of visitors and despite the new additions to the group would like to be noticed by you," adds Köhler, who is in constant contact with the keepers and is confident that Matra will be able to handle the situation with two babies well.

Bruno, Hellabrunn's oldest orangutan, has already become a dad thirty times over. In addition to the two newborns, two of his daughters, Isalie and Jolie, also live at Hellabrunn Zoo. He was born in 1969 in Munich. However, he is not the oldest orangutan residing in a scientifically managed zoo. The oldest Sumatran orangutan is 60-year-old Puan who lives in Perth. His achievement is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records.

Sumatran orangutans are only found in the wild on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are among the most endangered species of ape worldwide. For many years, Hellabrunn has been involved in a project with the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which operates a reintroduction station on Sumatra in the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park. The station is located in the centre of Sumatra in an area where orangutans had become extinct for more than 150 years. The aim of the project is to build a lifeboat population for the Sumatra orangutan at Bukit Tigapuluh through the reintroduction of the species. Over a period of months, confiscated and orphaned animals are prepared for release into the wild. With great success. To date the project has reintroduced more than 160 orangutans.

Those who would like to support Hellabrunn Zoo in providing exceptional care for the orangutans can do so through our Adopt an Animal programme. Your support will not only help to ensure the welfare of the orangutans at the zoo, but also the conservation of the species. The two youngest members of the orangutan group at Hellabrunn are still looking for a sponsor.

The members of the orangutan group at Hellabrunn Zoo:

Bruno, the proud
Born 18.2.1969 at Hellabrunn Zoo
The father of Jolie and Isalie is the undisputed head of the Hellabrunn orangutan group and very self-assured.

Matra, the good-natured
Born 19.11.1975 at Nuremberg Zoo
At Hellabrunn since: 1993
Matra is an affectionate mother who cares for her offspring with love and patience.

Sitti, the friendly
Born 20.11.1989 at Frankfurt Zoo
At Hellabrunn since: 2007
Sitti, the mother of Isalie and half-sister of Jahe, likes to communicate with visitors through the glass window.

Jahe, the elegant
Born 21.4.2003 at Frankfurt Zoo
At Hellabrunn since: 2012
The slender and graceful Jahe is the fine lady among the orangutans at Hellabrunn.

Isalie, the inventor
Born 14.7.2008 at Hellabrunn Zoo
Isalie, the daughter of Bruno and Sitti, always thinks up new games in order to have fun with her best friend Jolie.

Jolie, the princess
Born 15.7.2009 at Hellabrunn Zoo
Until recently the youngest member of the Hellabrunn group, Jolie, the daughter of Bruno and Matra, is particularly pretty but also a reserved orangutan girl.