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Say Hello To Our Newest (And Cutest) Animal Ambassador Emily C., Busch Gardens

This past November, was Orangutan Caring Month, a global initiative to raise awareness about the plight of critically endangered orangutans. While Busch Gardens Tampa has been hosting an Orangutan Caring event for the past few years, this year the park had another reason to celebrate: their newest addition! As you may have heard, Busch Gardens recently welcomed a healthy baby boy into their orangutan family. Busch Gardens participates in the Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a managed breeding program for orangutans in accredited zoos. An SSP is kind of like online dating for endangered species! Because the gene pool is reduced due to the low population of an endangered species, the SSP coordinates diversification of a gene pool. Busch Gardens currently participates in over 30 SSPs! The main job of an SSP coordinator is to figure out which animals are the best genetic matches. Of course,

the animals have the final say in how well those matches have been made! Luna Bela, the park’s 20 year-old bachelorette, said “no” to two different suitors who traveled to meet her! Her most recent match was with a younger guy, Madju, a goofy redhead who traveled all the way from the Auckland Zoo in New Zealand to meet her. Luna and Madju hit it off immediately! Their playful personalities meshed perfectly, and it wasn’t long before we learned Luna was expecting! Much to everyone’s delight, soon after Luna delivered, it was immediately apparent that Luna had every intention of caring for her baby! She hugged him close, kissed his head, and frequently lay on her back with his chin resting on her nose, staring at his face. Luna wasn’t entirely sure about how to nurse the baby at first, but with some gentle coaching from the team, she quickly figured it out. She has become very proud of him, and seems to enjoy bringing him over to show us!

Watching Luna interact with her baby is nothing short of heartwarming. She often sits gazing into his face or holding his hand in hers. She has surpassed everyone’s expectations and is a phenomenal mother. Orangutans are expected to be extinct in the wild in 10 years. That’s right, 10 years. The main threat to orangutans is unsustainable palm oil production. Forests are cut and burned down to make room for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is found in almost everything we use, and about 50% of what you find in the grocery store contains this ingredient. There are sustainable ways to produce palm oil, but how do you tell the difference? You can actually use your smart phone! Simply search “palm oil” in the app store on your phone, and download one of the free sustainable shopping apps, which will help you determine which products

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are orangutan-friendly. When you shop orangutan-friendly, you are also helping out tigers, Asian rhino species, Asian elephants, gibbons, and more! It’s a simple way that you can help orangutans just by doing something you already do! Did you know that visiting the Busch Gardens parks also supports our SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund? Through the Fund, the park supports many conservation projects helping many different endangered species, including orangutans. So, come meet Busch Garden’s newest addition and support wildlife conservation at the same time!

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December 2017 • 31

Gulf Coast Family - December 2017  

Gulf Coast Family's primary purpose is to encourage families along the Gulf Coast by providing worthwhile information that deals with family...