Growing Up Basan
Our male Sumatran orangutan has gone through remarkable changes

Basan, is that you?


Watching animals grow and develop over time is an exciting opportunity that draws many visitors back to the Indianapolis Zoo time and time again.

And the transformation of a particular resident in the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center has been especially remarkable to watch.

When he arrived at the Zoo back in 2013, Sumantran orangutan Basan weighed 100 pounds; an average, juvenile male. At the time, Zookeepers described the then 11-year-old ape as shy and small.

“He would always hide behind things when we entered his space.” said senior great ape keeper Lisa Smith.

In that five-year span, Basan has grown to 212 pounds. While the changes have mostly been gradual, Smith noted that he made a significant, 30-pound jump in 2016 around the time his daughter, Mila, was born.

The large, open spaces and multiple climbing structures inside the Center have been encouraging Basan’s muscle growth, and the changes in size have also been supported by steady increases in his diet.

Basan’s hair has grown longer and he’s developing large cheek pads, also called flanges, that are indicative of a maturing male orangutan.

Physical features aren’t all that have changed about Basan. Keepers have noticed him taking a more dominant role amongst the other orangutans.

“He slowly started to take charge and now he’s fully in charge out there,” Smith said.

With his keepers, Smith said Basan is no longer hiding. Instead, he’s become quite the jokester. He likes to fill up his mouth with water and sprays the animal care staff when they are nearby. However, Basan is also eager to please his keepers and does what he can to help when they work with him.

Basan still has a few years until he is fully mature, which gives Zoo guests lots of opportunities to check in and see his progress first hand.

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