When an orphaned orangutan mother watches a zookeeper breastfeed, her maternal instincts suddenly take over.

Motherhood doesn’t always come naturally. While some individuals may not possess an innate maternal instinct, they can still excel in the role of a parent. For humans, there are abundant resources to guide young mothers on their journey into parenthood.

However, in the animal kingdom, those born without this instinct need to be taught how to care for their young. Scroll down to check out this example now!

Zoe’s maternal instincts didn’t immediately kick in

Motherhood doesn't always come naturally

At the zoo, when Zoe, an orangutan, faced challenges with her maternal instincts, zookeepers recognized the need for intervention.

Having hand-raised her first baby due to nursing difficulties, the staff wanted to ensure a different outcome for Zoe’s second baby. They contacted Whitlee Turner, a zookeeper and new mom, for assistance. Whitlee, without hesitation, agreed to help Zoe learn the art of breastfeeding.

Zoe’s maternal instincts didn’t immediately kick in

Whitlee was more than happy to oblige. This unusual collaboration brought Whitlee and her baby Caleb to the orangutan indoor house, where the experienced mom aimed to teach Zoe the nuances of caring for her newborn.

Zoe had never learned how to be a mom, as she was orphaned at just 9 months old after her mother passed away. Whitlee was determined to assist and share her motherhood expertise with the orangutan.

Zoe started learning from a mom

Zoe started learning from a mom

Whitlee, wearing only her breastfeeding bra, demonstrated the process to Zoe, allowing her to observe the intricate steps involved in nurturing a newborn.

Whitlee said, “I just had my breastfeeding bra and was able to show her everything with zero modesty.”

Orphaned Orangutan Mom

“I wanted her to be able to see the whole process because orangutans don’t wear shirts. I wanted her to see my breasts, see Caleb, and be able to see him rooting and hungry. She could see where the baby was supposed to be held,” she added.

Although Zoe was initially curious and watched the demonstration with interest, it wasn’t until a day later that she successfully breastfed her baby.

Dedicated work always pays off

Orphaned Orangutan

In a quest to enhance Zoe’s maternal skills, zookeepers at the Indianapolis Zoo went above and beyond by installing a TV in her enclosure. They played videos on a loop featuring orangutans giving birth and caring for their offspring, providing Zoe with visual lessons on maternal behaviors.

This innovative approach aimed to supplement Zoe’s learning and help her understand the nuances of motherhood through the observation of other orangutan mothers.

Dedicated work always pays off

The heartwarming story of Whitlee and Zoe’s extraordinary bond serves as a poignant reminder of the significance of compassion and care for animals in captivity.

The dedication of zookeepers, coupled with innovative methods, can overcome unexpected challenges and foster the development of natural instincts.

Zoe’s success in breastfeeding her baby not only demonstrates the power of empathy and understanding but also underscores the profound connections that can be forged between different species.

It serves as a heartening testament to the shared experiences that transcend our differences and the lessons we can glean from one another.


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