Negara Travels More Than 10,000 Miles to New Home


                The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has welcomed home a new “sheila”. A 23-year-old, female Sumatran orangutan, Negara (Nē-gar-uh), recently arrived from the Perth Zoo, across the Pacific Ocean on the down-under continent of Australia. The more than 10,000-mile journey culminated a two-year process of obtaining permits and following domestic and international government protocols.


“We worked with the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Perth Zoo,” said Laura Bottaro, Zoological curator. “The SSP approved Negara as a breeding companion for our 15-year-old, male Sumatran orangutan Elok. We hope Negara and Elok will enjoy each other’s company, and will increase the population and add genetic diversity to the species in North America. Orangutan numbers are very low in zoos. The Zoo’s partnership with the SSP acts as an important hedge against extinction for orangutans.”


Sumatran orangutans are considered critically endangered in the wild. Globally, 60 percent of primate species are now threatened with extinction and 75 percent have declining populations, according to Science Advances. This condition exists due extensive habitat loss, increased bushmeat hunting and illegal trade.


The Zoo is playing an increasingly critical role in saving wildlife, including orangutans. In 2016, the Zoo partnered with Rainforest Trust to buy and protect over 200,000 acres of forest in Sumatra, which provides habitat for orangutans and is the only reintroduction site for orangutans in the area. The Zoo also supports the production and purchase of only certified sustainable palm oil through its membership in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO protects habitat for orangutans and many other primate species where the production of palm oil (as an ingredient in food and household products) has forced orangutans to migrate to adjacent forest patches where they often succumb to malnutrition and starvation due to the competition of limited resources.


Zoo fans can help fight the plight of orangutans by becoming ZOOfriends’ members. Membership dollars are used to fund the Zoo’s major conservation efforts. Zoo guests can also "round up" to the nearest dollar when making purchases each time they visit the Zoo. This Round Up for Conservation program generated more than $112,000 in 2016, a portion of which helped fund the purchase of the rainforest acreage in central Sumatra.


Zoo guests may not see Negara, Elok and female Toba together in their habitat for a while.  Introductions are a multiple-step process and can take several weeks to ultimately create a family group. Guests will soon notice some changes to the trees in the outside orangutan habitat. Plans are underway for a new climbing structure that will enable the orangutans to climb up high as they naturally would in the wild. Orangutans are primarily arboreal apes, which means “living in trees”.


Like us, we know you’ll fall in love with our long-awaited, female orangutan from down under! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is an Adventure Road partner and a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums and Oklahoma City’s Adventure District. Open year-round except for Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Buildings close at 4:45 p.m. daily. Guests must exit grounds at closing time. Regular admission is $8 for adults, and $5 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are free. Become a Zoo fan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.