Zookeeper Teaches New Orangutan Mom How To Nurse By Breastfeeding In Front Of Her

Jul 10, 2023 by apost team

When orangutan Zoe fell pregnant in mid-2022, her carers at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Mosley, Virginia, were determined to ensure she became the best mom she possibly could.

Zoe gave birth to her first baby, Taavi, in 2021. However, at the time, Taavi had to be hand-raised by caretakers after Zoe failed to bond with him and was unable to nurse him. This could have been the result of the fact that Zoe was orphaned at a young age after her mother passed away when she was only 9 months old. 

The second time around, however, Zoe’s caretakers amped up their efforts to kick Zoe into maternal mode. While Zoe was pregnant, they installed TVs inside her enclosure that played videos of orangutan mothers delivering their babies and caring for their newborns. 

“She would just sit there and watch the video over and over again, so she saw it from the very beginning and even if we would change it to something else and then put it back on, it immediately would capture her attention and she’d come over and watch it,” lead zookeeper Jessica Gring said.

Gring said she also used a stuffed toy baby orangutan to demonstrate to Zoe how a baby could be held and carried around by clinging to the neck and torso.

After Zoe’s second baby was born on Dec. 12, 2022, it appeared Gring’s efforts had paid off.

“After he was born, (Zoe) immediately came over and did the exact same thing… she was able to do exactly mirror image of what we had shown her, which was really, really exciting,” Gring remarked.

However, there was still one crucial step in motherhood that Zoe needed to learn, and for that, zookeepers turned to fellow staff member and new mom Whitlee Turner.

Be sure to reach the end of this article to see the full video :-)

After Zoe’s second baby was born, the zoo’s vet asked Turner for her help to show Zoe the ropes when it came to breastfeeding.

“I just had my breastfeeding bra on, and I was able to show (Zoe) everything with zero modesty. I wanted her to be able to see the whole process because orangutans don’t wear shirts. I wanted her to be able to see my breasts and see Caleb and be able to see him rooting and looking for it and the latch,” Turner said.

“With my bra down, I was very exaggerated when I put him on so that (Zoe) could see that the baby goes here. The whole time I was talking to her and pointing at her, pointing at the baby, pointing at her breasts. And when Caleb was latched I was showing it to her, making sure that she saw the important part,” she added.

“The whole time she just kept watching me curiously. She didn’t immediately breastfeed her baby, but she was definitely watching the whole time,” Turner remarked.

Soon enough, Zoe was seen nursing her baby for the first time, to the thrill of all her carers at the zoo. Turner expressed her joy at helping not only a remarkable animal but a new mom.

“I had a really hard time in the beginning as a new mom with my breastfeeding journey. (I) required a lot of guidance and help before we really figured it out. I think it was really special being able to share this with (Zoe) and help her in her journey. Whether it was an orangutan or a human, I just want to be able to help any new mom.”

Turner added, “I feel like moms just always have each other’s backs.”


Wasn’t Zoe’s story into full-fledged motherhood with the help of her carers remarkable? If you thought so, pass this story on to friends and family as well.

Please scroll below for more stories :-)