MOSELEY, Va. (WSVN) — Zoe the orangutan, who was orphaned at just nine months old, needed help learning how to breastfeed after her firstborn, Taavi, had to be raised by the staff at the Metro Richmond Zoo. When Zoe gave birth to her second baby, the zoo’s vet contacted Whitlee Turner, a zookeeper and new mom herself, for an extraordinary favor.

Turner was asked to breastfeed her own baby Caleb in front of Zoe in hopes that she would learn from a live demonstration. Turner agreed to help and arrived with her baby at the orangutan’s indoor house soon after Zoe gave birth.

Turner shared her breastfeeding knowledge with Zoe, and less than 24 hours later, Zoe nursed her baby for the first time.

The zookeepers also worked with Zoe for months before giving birth to kickstart her maternal instincts. They set up a TV inside her enclosure, so she could watch videos of orangutan mothers giving birth and caring for their young. Zookeepers even showed Zoe how to hold and nurse a baby by using a stuffed animal orangutan.

Zoe and her unnamed baby boy are healthy and bonding well. The zoo is grateful to its dedicated and creative professionals who are committed to helping Zoe.

Orangutans are critically endangered species native to Borneo and Sumatra. Deforestation for the establishment of palm oil plantations is the primary cause of their habitat loss.

The zoo hopes that Zoe’s successful breastfeeding journey will help raise awareness about the importance of protecting and preserving these intelligent and beautiful creatures.

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