Jackson, Miss.— The staff of the Jackson Zoological Society, Inc., invites zoo members, guests, and media to join them in saying “bon voyage” to their beloved male Bornean orangutan this Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13. Animal care staff will be providing extra enrichment to the ape during regular park hours (9 am to 4 pm), talking to guests in front of his exhibit, and a goodbye card will be placed nearby for the public to sign. The public is also encouraged to share their favorite stories of “Pumpkin” via social media, using #JxnZooPumpkinTales.
Pumpkin is scheduled to be moved to the Houston Zoo before the end of the month to reside with a larger orangutan group. Listed in the SSP to help rebuild the species, he will hopefully mate with their resident Bornean female and continue to increase the numbers of this critically endangered species. Currently, there are less than 1,500 northern Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund, with their numbers declining by more than 50% over the past 60 years.
The female, “Kimmie,” was successfully relocated to the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo in September. She and her infant son with Pumpkin, “Max,” were sent to the state of the art facility after it was determined that the baby was showing signs of slow development. According to Judy Palermo, Public Relations with the Indianapolis Zoo, “Kim and Max continue to enjoy their time outdoors in a large area away from public view. Baby and mom continue to acclimate to their new home.”
Although the Jackson Zoo has had orangutans for almost 20 years, the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums made the decision in August to move the orangutans due to the breeding challenges created by the aging exhibit. The orangutan exhibit is due to be completely redesigned and replaced in the Ten Year Plan (adopted in 2015), but the needs of the animals were more time sensitive than the availability of the funds.
Jackson Zoo Director Beth Poff said, “While it is sad to bid farewell to ‘Pumpkin,’ we are at the same time happy for him to have an expanded home amidst other orangutans. Even with the exhibit expansion in 2007, the Society always knew it was a temporary fix and not the best for a breeding situation. As always, we want what is best for the animal, and this move is a good thing.”
The Jackson Zoo staff and Board of Directors are currently conducting a feasibility study of a major funding campaign which would enable the Jackson Zoological Society to complete the Ten Year Plan. Along with new and renovated exhibits in the expanded park, the plan includes a larger, more up-to-date orangutan exhibit, which would bring the animals back into the collection.