AZA Orangutan Species Survival Plan®

My name is Lori Perkins and I am the chairperson of the AZA’s Orangutan Species Survival Plan®, a group that serves 55 accredited zoos across the United States, Canada, and Mexico to help guide the management of the orangutan populations in managed settings.

The primary goals of an SSP are to treat an entire population of animals as a single unit (“gene pool”) in order to maximize retention of genetic diversity and to promote cooperation among holding institutions to ensure the long-term survival of the species in supervised care.  A minority of SSP’s support wild populations through reintroduction programs, but most SSP programs exist to support a sustainable  population in managed care to advance the mission of zoos for many years to come.  Holistic SSP programs extend beyond zoo management to encompass scientific research, conservation, and education programs that support populations in both zoos and the wild.

Orangutans in zoos worldwide are managed as two genetically separate breeding populations, based on the two species of orangutan that exist in the wild – the Sumatran (Pongo abelii) and the Bornean (Pongo pygmaeus). A third, non-breeding population is made up of hybrid orangutans, crosses between the two recognized species.

We are ultimately interested in the well-being and health of ALL orangutans, including those living outside accredited zoos and those in the wild. Working closely with respected professionals in the field, the SSP provides help and guidance to zoos housing orangutans.  Together, zoos and the SSP seek to provide the best possible environment for these amazing animals. The SSP focuses on scientific management to benefit orangutan populations, vital public outreach to increase public awareness of orangutan conservation, promoting efforts that take a stand on issues affecting the welfare of orangutans, supporting conservation activities benefiting wild populations, and raising the bar for standards of care of orangutans in zoos.

Have questions? Want to know more about what the AZA Orangutan SSP does for these animals in zoos and in the wild to support conservation efforts?  Check out the AZA Orangutan SSP FAQ page to learn more or visit the Orangutan SSP website.