WASHINGTON — Bei Bei will soon have to share the spotlight, as the Smithsonian National Zoo announced Batang — a Bornean orangutan — is pregnant.
The zoo conducted a live ultrasound on its Facebook page Tuesday to confirm 19-year-old Batang’s pregnancy. On Monday, a positive pregnancy test was posted on the zoo’s Facebook page teasing the announcement.
According to a news release, Batang and 19-year-old male Kyle bred earlier this year, and the pregnancy was confirmed on Feb. 2.
It has been 25 years since an orangutan has been born at the National Zoo.
Keepers have been helping Batang get used to motherhood over the last three years, the zoo said. Keepers gave her a bean-shaped pillow and a stuffed animal, training Batang to keep the “baby” upright and to also allow them easy access to a future infant. She has also been taught to use a breast pump in case she isn’t able to nurse, the zoo said.
If Batang is unwilling or unable to care for her baby, keepers have also been training female Bornean orangutans Bonnie and Iris to act as “surrogate mothers.” Instead of feeding a baby, keepers have asked the two to bring the “pillow babies” to them for feedings.
Keepers said Tuesday the endangered Bornean orangutan is about 22 weeks along, and the gestation period for orangutans is about 35 weeks — so they are expecting the baby in September.
Batang and Kyle are two of the National Zoo’s six orangutans, which visitors can see at the Great Ape House. The zoo plans to follow Batang’s pregnancy through its social media pages, using the hashtag “#OrangutanStory.”