Berani, the dad orangutan continues to be a source of comfort for the 2-year-old Cerah after stepping up as "Mr. Mom."
A male orangutan at the Denver Zoo has taken on an unusual role following the death of the family’s matriarch. He has filled in the shoes as the caretaker of the two-year-old daughter left behind by Nias, the Sumatran orangutan who died unexpectedly in December. This comes across as unusual because male orangutans in the wild don't take on the role of a caregiver. But Berani is different and has "stepped up to the plate" to take care of his daughter, Cerah, reported CBS Local. Nias and Berani also have another daughter, Hesty, who is 10.
Humans live in a world that is still governed by gender roles. While the animal kingdom may not have the concept of "gender" as humans do, they are no stranger to defined roles that the male and female undertake in the wild. They have definite sex roles to follow and have been evolving in this manner. More often than not, the female of any species takes on the role of caregiver. "The bottom line is that males have evolved to be promiscuous and females have evolved to be choosy – they should only mate with the best male," Zuleyma Tang-Martinez at the University of Missouri, St Louis explained to BBC.
The Zoo took to Facebook to share this rare development. In the post, they wrote, For everyone wondering how our little Cerah is doing, our keepers will tell you that we are so fortunate that her dad Berani has stepped up to the plate. In the wild, orangutan males are not involved with their offspring. To see Berani step up as Mr. Mom is an extremely rare situation—and Cerah couldn't have asked for a better dad. Berani is so attentive and protective of her, seeing to all her needs. He will carry her, comfort her, and even snuggles her when she sleeps. As for big sis Hesty, she's been taking on her share with Cerah and plays with her throughout the day. The three of them are sticking together and moving forward.
The family of orangutans has been overcoming their loss together. Carlie McGuire, the Public Relations Coordinator at the Denver Zoo told Bored Panda that Berani “has always been an exception to the typical role of a male orangutan.” McGuire added, "Well before Nias’ death, Berani was known for treating Hesty, Nias’ first daughter, as his own offspring. Hesty is not Berani’s biological daughter, but he always treated her as such. So it’s no surprise to us now that he’s stepped in to take care of Cerah." Berani continues to be a source of comfort for the baby orangutan.
In the wild, a male orangutan never gets involved in child-rearing so Berani taking over was not expected at all. McGuire added, “Nias was the true leader of that family group, and while Berani has certainly shown some maternal instincts with Cerah recently, he cannot replace her”. Luckily, Cerah is old enough that she had nearly weaned off nursing. This means that there will be no need to introduce a new female to be a "surrogate" to her.
Nias was 32 and passed away on December 17. In an Instagram post, the zoo wrote: Nias came to Denver Zoo in 2005 when she was 17-years-old and spent the last 15 years delighting guests and serving as an ambassador for her critically-endangered species. It also stated that Nias was known as the “Queen Bee” of the Zoo’s Great Apes exhibit. Her keepers stated that "Nias was a wonderful mate to Berani, a loving mother to Cerah and Hesty, and a silly, fiercely loyal friend to her care team."