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Baby orangutan’s paternity tests stuns researchers at Swiss zoo

A baby orangutan’s surprise paternity shows that a dividing fence is no match for two monkeys in love.

A DNA test of 5-month-old Padma – who is part of an endangered species breeding program at Basel Zoo in northwestern Switzerland – showed that the baby orangutan was not fathered by any male in her enclosure.

“If there is only one mature male living with a group of females, the paternity of offspring is not in dispute,” the zoo said. “[However,] as all of the groups come into contact with each other at the fence, young orangutans routinely undergo a paternity test, and Padma was no exception.”

In this undated photo, released Thursday Jan. 31, 2019, by Zoo Basel, zoo keepers take DNA samples from female orangutan Maja to determine the paternity of her daughter Padma at the Basel Zoo. ( Zoo Basel via AP)

In this undated photo, released Thursday Jan. 31, 2019, by Zoo Basel, zoo keepers take DNA samples from female orangutan Maja to determine the paternity of her daughter Padma at the Basel Zoo. ( Zoo Basel via AP)

Maja, who gave birth to Padma in August, was in the same enclosure as Budi, a 14-year-old male orangutan. It was easy to assume that Budi would be the baby’s father, yet the tests did not match up.

“Until now, these tests have not thrown up any surprises. But there is a first time for everything: Padma’s father turned out to be Vendel (18), who Maja sometimes meets at the fence,” the zoo said, adding that Vendel is the only male with cheek pads, which is very attractive to females in heat.

“It seems that the females simply cannot resist a male with cheek pads,” the museum added.

Keepers routinely take DNA samples from newborn orangutans because the endangered great apes are part of a breeding program.

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