Sumatran Orangutan

Island of Sumatra, Republic of Indonesia 

Primarily wild fruits, figs, vegetation, mineral soil, insects, In the Zoo- leaf eater pellets, canned primate diet, fruit, vegetables.

Primary rainforests from sea level to an elevation 4,900 feet.

dark rufous or reddish brown hairy coat is rather thin and shaggy. Mature males develop facial pads made of subcutaneous fat. The fur may be sparse and short or very long and corded. 

There are two subspecies of orangutans still surviving in Asia today only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. The Sumatran is the rarest. The Zoo has two Sumatran orangutans in the Asia section. Each subspecies is very different in looks and behavior. Orangutans are endangered due to fragmentation of their natural habitat loss. In the last 20 years orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia have lost 80% of their habitat. Since 1990 the wild population has decreased by up to 50%. There may now be as few as only 14,000 animals left of two subspecies across the entire region.

We have a pair of Sumatran orangutans named Ibu and Butch.  Ibu was born August 1, 1991 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans and came to the El Paso Zoo on June 16, 1997.  Her new companion is Butch.  He was born at the Oklahoma City Zoo on August 19, 1985 and came to the El Paso Zoo on March 29, 2011. Ibu is an artist and her work has been published in a book available on entitled “Fur in My Paint.”  

On April 23, 2015, Khaleesi, a female Sumatran orangutan was born here at the Zoo.  Khaleesi and her mother Ibu have access to their exhibit Thursdays to Sundays.   Our male orangutan, Butch, is on exhibit Mondays to Wednesday. 

Khaleesi is the first baby for Ibu and Butch.  The orangutan management team produced and implemented a birthing plan that is required by the AZA’s Species Survival Plan group. This plan helps maintain a safe/productive/clear plan for everyone to follow and keeps everyone informed and consistent with managing the orangutan mom and infant.  

The dedication and consistent work of the orangutan keepers/trainers has helped Ibu become a wonderful mom to Khaleesi.  She’s protective and attentive to Khaleesi and will present Khaleesi to her trainers on cue for visual exams. Ibu and Khaleesi have a very strong bond.  This is partly due to Ibu having a lot of stress-free time with her infant and trainers during the infant’s first 3.5 months of her life in their secure and baby-proof off-exhibit area. 

On August 10, 2015, Ibu and Khaleesi were given access to the exhibit as a ‘soft’ introduction. Orangutan keepers observed her every move and documented this via notation or pictures. They monitored to make sure Ibu was not stressed and that she was eating and drinking and caring for Khaleesi appropriately. After a couple weeks of Ibu going out on exhibit with Khaleesi attached to her, the public was allowed to come and observe during the week. At her first weekend out on exhibit Ibu was extremely cautious.  She did get somewhat frustrated at first with the large, noisy crowds that would come to visit her. She would immediately take Khaleesi inside and out of sight from the public. At the moment, Ibu and Khaleesi are becoming more comfortable, but at times she will take Khaleesi inside when she feels that her infant needs to rest or that it’s too warm outside or if she feels uncomfortable with the large, noisy groups. 

For up-to-date information on their progress, visit 


Read about orangutans online and check out books from your local library. Become a member of the El Paso Zoological Society. Funds raised by the Society are used to support conservation efforts at the El Paso Zoo and in the wild. 

For an interesting family activity watch for our orangutans each day at around 12:30pm when our keepers place special enrichment out for them in their exhibit. Enrichment is a term zoos use to describe any activity provided by keepers to help create opportunities for animals to exhibit natural behaviors.