News Release

April 1, 2015

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Young Orangutan at Brookfield Zoo Makes Public Debut with Surrogate Mom

Brookfield, Ill.— Guests who swing over to Brookfield Zoo’s Tropic World: Asia will now be able to see Kecil (pronounced Ka-cheel), a one-year-old Bornean orangutan, and his 53-year-old surrogate mom, Maggie. Currently, the two will be visible for guests to see between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Saturdays and Sundays, including during the zoo’s Ape Awareness Weekend celebration on April 11 and 12. Watch for updates on additional hours at

Kecil came to Brookfield Zoo in June 2014 when he was nearly six months old. Since his arrival, he and Maggie have been behind the scenes to allow time for the two to bond. Animal care staff have kept the public updated on Kecil’s progress via a blog posted at on the Society’s website.

Over the past 10 months, Kecil also has been developing his climbing and coordination skills—important milestones he needed to accomplish before having access to the habitat in Tropic World. To help him become more agile and proficient at climbing, staff provided Kecil’s behind-the-scenes area with vines and branches. Additionally, staff made some modifications to the orangutans’ habitat, including the addition of more hanging vines so Kecil is able to navigate on his own. “As he becomes more independent, he does not need Maggie to help him get down from high places any longer, but Maggie is still protective of him, which will be good now that they have access to the main habitat,” said Craig Demitros, associate curator of primates for the Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

Normally, an infant orangutan would be carried by his mother. Although Maggie and Kecil have bonded very well, Maggie does not carry the young orangutan. Rather, she holds his arm or leg and encourages him to grab onto her as she moves.

“We are thrilled with Kecil’s progress, as well as the relationship that has flourished between him and Maggie. Because it was extremely important that Kecil be raised by an orangutan rather than humans, the animal care staff has dedicated these past 10 months to doing everything possible to ensure his success,” added Demitros.

Kecil’s diet also is increasing, and he is being given a variety of fruits and vegetables, although most of his nutrition comes from baby cereal and formula that keepers give him in a bottle.

Kecil was born on January 11, 2014, at Toledo Zoo in Ohio, where his mother, who had raised her own offspring in the past, showed little interest in caring for him following a difficult delivery. After several months of dedicated but unsuccessful efforts to encourage Kecil’s mom to care for him, animal care staff decided it would be best to place him with a surrogate at another zoo. At four months old, Kecil was taken to Milwaukee County Zoo to be placed with a possible surrogate. Initial results between Kecil and the surrogate were positive. However, the optimal level of bonding that staff had hoped to see was not achieved, and after various stages of progress, the situation seemed to have reached a plateau. Kecil was then brought to Brookfield Zoo to be introduced to Maggie, who has a calm demeanor and has been a surrogate mom in the past.

Those interested in helping care for Kecil can participate in the Society’s Share the Care program. A variety of donation packages are available ranging from $35 to $105. To adopt Kecil and for further information, visit

The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

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Photo Captions—photo credit Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society
Kecil-1 – 9: Kecil, a one-year-old orangutan at Brookfield Zoo, can be seen at Brookfield Zoo’s Tropic World: Asia on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Since his arrival in June 2014, Kecil has been behind the scenes bonding with his surrogate mom, Maggie, as well as developing his climbing and coordination skills—important milestones he needed to accomplish before having access to the habitat in Tropic World. The public can go to the zoo’s website at to check for updates on additional hours.


Sondra Katzen
Public Relations
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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