Meet Wali: Toronto Zoo's newest baby Sumatran orangutan

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Baby orangutan Wali, born April 8 at the Toronto Zoo, hitches a ride on his mom Sekali's back.  (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)
Baby orangutan Wali, born April 8 at the Toronto Zoo, hitches a ride on his mom Sekali's back. (Martin Trainor/CBC - image credit)

The Toronto Zoo introduced a new member of its Indo-Malaya pavilion Friday: Wali, a baby Sumatran orangutan.

Dolf DeJong, CEO of the Toronto Zoo, said the little ape was born at the zoo on April 8 and that his name means "guardian" in Indonesian.

Sumatran orangutans are "guardians of the rainforest," he added.

Wali is the second child his mother Sekali, whose first son was born at the zoo in 2006, DeJong said. Sekali is embracing her role again as a mother, with staff observing the pair in their habitat, he said.

"[W]e've noticed the little guy starting to pay attention to what she's eating, grabbing onto leafy greens; like a lot of youngsters, putting things into his mouth, exploring his world, and even starting to try to stand up a little, holding onto mom, or things around him," DeJong said.

Wali might cling to Sekali's back now, but he'll likely be much larger than when he matures.

The Toronto Zoo website says male orangutans can weigh up to 90 kilograms, while adult females can reach 50 kilograms. And adult orangutans can be as tall as 1.5 metres.

That won't be for a while, though. The Toronto Zoo site notes that orangutans ride on their mother's back for up to two and a half years and aren't usually independent until the age of four. Orangutans don't reach full physical and social maturity until at least age 13.

Like humans, orangutans have a set of 32 teeth, the zoo says. They're also resourceful. The precocious primates will use chewed up leaves as a sponge or use leaves as gloves to climb a prickly tree. They can even make an umbrella out of leaves, the zoo's website says.

Listed as 'critically endangered' 

The species live in the tropical rainforests of North Sumatra, an island in Indonesia. Orangutans are listed as "critically endangered" on the World Wildlife Fund website, with a population of only about 14,600.

The non-profit cites forest fires, agricultural development and hunting as contributors to their habitat loss and population decline.

DeJong noted that orangutan habit loss is also related to deforestation for palm oil plantations.

"While orangutans are the guardians of the rainforest, we are the guardians of the planet, and we have some work to do," he said, asking people to consider the impact of unsustainable palm oil production.

Palm oil is used in cooking and is also contained in items such as detergents, food products and cosmetics, the WWF site says.