The Indianapolis Zoo’s two tiniest orangutans, 2-year-olds Mila and Max, are growing fast. After being introduced last year, they’ve formed a great friendship as they play and explore together.
The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center celebrated its first-ever orangutan birth when Mila was born on March 23, 2016, to mom Sirih and dad Basan. While Mila stayed close by her mother’s side for the first few months, it didn’t take long for the curious youngster to begin exploring on her own. Zookeeper Stacie Beckett said Mila is an incredibly independent and fearless ape. She’s also picking up many of Basan’s mannerisms — like somersaulting, putting her feet on the mesh and using the ground to scratch her back.
Max and his mother, Kim, came to the Zoo in the fall of 2016 and moved into the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center a few months later. While Max was delayed developmentally when he first arrived, he has made spectacular progress with the support of our expert animal care team. Recently, Max has started eating more solid foods — bananas seem to be a favorite. Like Mila, Max is very curious and playful. He is becoming more independent and enjoys climbing and crawling everywhere. He also spends lots of time playing with big sheets of paper, plastic buckets and cardboard boxes.
Designed from the orangutans’ point of view, the Center encourages all the apes’ incredible abilities and allows them to climb, swing and move in a very natural way. And Max and Mila have both explored every inch of their dynamic space — from the bottom up to the top and even outside!
Beckett said Mila and Max were a little hesitant upon first meeting each other, but they’ve warmed up to each other and are now great playmates. They often chase each other, roll around and wrestle together. The babies also seek out Sirih, “Auntie” Knobi and other adult females to join in the fun.
As you watch the two young apes play together, you can tell them apart by their hair — Max has darker hair that sticks up on both sides while Mila has lighter locks.
Having two orangutans who are so close in age is wonderful, Beckett said. Like human siblings, Max and Mila have lots of energy, and playtime doesn’t have to end when the adults need a break.
Since female orangutan go seven to nine years in between pregnancies, it’s also very unique to see 1-year-olds together the way Mila and Max are at the Center.
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