I wrote this post over a year ago and never shared it. BUT... I thought it was too beautiful to not share so here it is one year on. I hope you enjoy reading about our little visit to the Melbourne Zoo in June 2017. xx
1st June 2017 - Yesterday was just like any other day with my two young children. Pack the kids into the car, attend activities at the local library, some shopping in the city and a last minute decision to swing by the zoo for a few hours on our way back home.
Only this day left me with a really beautiful moment shared between myself, my two children Elijah (3) & Alannah (6mths) and two orang-utans at the Melbourne Zoo.
My daughter was getting a bit grizzly and ready for a nap as we approached the orang-utan sanctuary and as there was only one other mother and her small child around, we opted for a quick nappy change on the seating by the window.
The orang-utans were sitting far away, up high on their fort. I put my daughter down on a blanket, started her nappy change and I suddenly jumped out of my skin, as I realised from nowhere there was not one, but two orang-utans looking over my shoulder at my daughter.
The two orang-utans curled up beside her putting their faces next to hers and my daughter reached out wanting to touch their faces. It was such a beautiful moment and I watched as these creatures demonstrated what I witness regularly as a midwife and childbirth educator; the mothering and nurturing instinct. They had such a beutiful connection with her and I could see how strongly these instincts were ingrained in these creatures.
On further investigation I suspect that the orang-utans were mother and daughter pair; Maimunah and 6 year old Dewi. (I would love this confirmed from someone who works at Melbourne Zoo!)
This experience inspired me to look deeper into the mothering journey of these animals. The bond between orang-utan mother and child is a fascinating one. It’s stronger than any other animal, with the mother taking 8 years to raise a child, on their own. As solitary animals, the young exclusively rely on their mum for nutrition and transport, much like a human child does its parents. They continue to learn skills from their mum such as climbing, finding food and building a nest in the trees, until the age of 6 or 7. The mum then falls pregnant and starts the child rearing process all over again, often having offspring well into her 40’s!
The grown up female orang-utans will continue to visit their mother until the age of around 15, when she then starts reproducing herself. The loss of mature females in a habitat has a devastating effect on their population and takes years to replenish because of the long child rearing process and long breeding intervals.
It makes sense that Maimunah and her daughter Dewi were so intrigued with my 6 month old daughter, with the special bond that mothers and their offspring have in the orang-utang world and the emphasis on the nurturing instinct for the survival of their species.
If you would like to support the Melbourne Zoo’s ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign to support these gentle nurturers head to: www.zoo.org.au/get-involved/act-for-wildlife/dont-palm-us-off
Or to find out more about the mother:infant bond in my childbirth education classes follow me on instagram @bliss_health_wellness or Facebook: Bliss Health & Wellness
As a midwife, mother of two and the owner of Bliss Health & Wellness: Childbirth Education, I believe in strengthening the mother:infant bond to support birth and parenting, so that it is approached with confidence and wonder. Just like these orang-utans connected with me and my children on this day and left us feeling pretty amazed at the brief but powerful connection we shared.
Click the gallery to see more images