A Mother's Day Salute to Dasa the Orangutan
The last time The Last Word was at the Erie Zoo it was Thanksgiving and we visited Franklin the Turkey. This weekend is Mother's Day and we're back to visit a famous mom.
It’s Dasa the orangutan. She is probably one of the most well-known mothers in Erie. The orangutan building at the zoo is one of the most popular places for young and old to visit. Dasa shares the exhibit with her 5-year old son Otis. Emily Smicker, of the zoo staff, visits the orangutans every day.
"Dasa and Otis are inseparable. Dasa has been a fantastic mother.” she said.
Dasa and her beloved mate Joe had three offspring. Leila 20 years ago, Ollie, 10 years ago, and Otis 5 years ago. She played an important role in all of their lives.
"What's really unique about orangutans is that the childhood dependence upon the mother is the longest for any primate and really any animal, for that matter, other than humans,” says Smicker.
A young male orangutan will stay with his mother until age 8. The moms nurse their offspring up until age 6. A female orangutan will stay with her mother until teenage years in order to learn how to be a mother herself. Nothing against Joe, who died a few months ago from heart failure, but male orangutans are not as family-oriented as the moms. In the wild, the dads abandon the family unit. At the zoo, dad is more of a playmate than a parent to the kids.
"What will happen is dad kind of takes on that play-buddy role. He's more there to play with the child as they get a little bit older. Wrestle and that stuff. Give mom a break. Mom does a lot of the nurturing."
So here's a salute to Dasa on Mother's Day. But, there's other moms at the zoo. Dee, a siamang gibbon, is actually a grandmother. Two new penguins were born just a few months ago. One to Pearl and Sidney, the other to Chris and Ricky. Penguins mate for life, by the way.
Also, a baby porcupine was born over the winter to Brillo and her mate B.J. Brillo gave birth to a beautiful boy.
"His name is Bruce Quillis. We like puns around here,” says Smicker.
The Erie Zoo will honor all mothers who come to visit on Mother's Day. Moms get half-off the admission price when they come with their family.