An endangered Sumatran orangutan, who has lost six infants since 1995, is now expecting a baby in mid-January despite being on contraceptives, Adelaide Zoo has announced.
Karta the orangutan most recently gave birth to a stillborn baby in 2014.
Senior primate keeper Jodie Ellen said the zoo was cautiously excited about the unplanned pregnancy.
She said the primate team was pleased the 34-year-old had the opportunity to become a mum again, but were realistic about the challenges she had faced in the past.
“Hopes are high that our beloved Karta will have a successful pregnancy, it’s something we believe she greatly deserves,” Ms Ellen said.
“This wasn’t a planned pregnancy, but nature intervened and we’ve proceeded with the pregnancy because Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered in the wild.
“It is important we breed this species before they disappear from the planet forever.”
Ms Ellen said for many years keepers did not know why Karta kept losing her infants, but in 2011 discovered her anatomy might be the reason she has difficulties breastfeeding.
“Karta’s sister at Denver Zoo experiences the same problems, with keepers having to supplement feed her infant in order for it to survive,” Ms Ellen said.
“We’ll be doing everything in our power to support our Karta; we have been training her for years and we have a supplementary feeding program in place so that we can help her feed the infant when it is born.”
Ms Ellen said there will be a team on site 24 hours a day once the baby arrives.
Adelaide Zoo said with less than 7000 Sumatran and Bornean orangutans estimated to be left in the wild, figures suggest the orangutan could become extinct in their native habitat within the next 10 years.
The population has been declining by as many as 1000 a year.