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Keepers Reunite with Orangutan

Berani, the 17-year-old female orangutan born at the L.A. Zoo in 2005. Photo by Jamie Pham

In August, Animal Keepers Kathryn Vivian and Stania Olivera and Senior Keeper Megan Fox attended the 15th annual Orangutan Species Survival Plan (OSSP) conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their trip was filled with ideas for training, enrichment, and problem solving, but it also held a special reunion with a beloved orangutan friend—and her new baby.

Keeper Stania Oliver is new to the Zoo’s great ape crew. “In preparation for joining the team later this month, I was eager to attend the OSSP conference along with Kathryn and Megan,” she says. “I saw it as an opportunity to get to know my colleagues, the animals, and the dedicated OSSP network.” The conference provided opportunities for all three. “I enjoyed the husbandry course, the behavioral training discussions, and the impromptu enrichment class (complete with take-home samples), but beyond that I’m grateful I was able to make lasting connections with fellow orangutan keepers and become part of this network.”

Keeper Kathryn Vivian was excited by the opportunity to gather with orangutan experts. “Orangutans, Asia’s only great ape, are incredibly unique in terms of anatomy, physiology, and life history,” Vivian explains. “Compared to the other three great apes, there is still a lot of information that needs to be uncovered about them. Only in recent years has more information been gathered by researchers, scientists, and veterinarians. For example, in just 2017 geneticists were able to distinguish a third species: the Tapanuli orangutan. New information is being discovered and presented constantly.”

It was a worthwhile trip for the Zoo’s entire orangutan team, and particularly for Senior Keeper Megan Fox. Fox, a current OSSP steering committee member, had a special friend to visit: Berani, a 17-year-old female orangutan born at the L.A. Zoo in 2005. Longtime Zoo visitors remember Berani, who grew up here but moved to Little Rock in 2016 as part of a breeding recommendation by the OSSP. Fox was one of Berani’s caregivers at the L.A. Zoo. “As excited as I was to attend the workshop, I was equally excited to visit Berani,” Fox says. In 2019, Berani had her first offspring, a female named Kasih. “Having known and worked with Berani since her birth, seeing her now as an adult and with her own baby was truly heartwarming. It was wonderful to see what a fantastic and attentive mom she is now, not to mention what a beautiful orangutan she has become. Her little daughter is quite the character, too.”

Three people sitting with blue shirts
L to R Kathryn Vivian, Megan Fox, and Stania Olivera

Attending workshops such as the OSSP allows staff to share their own knowledge and bring back insights from others working in the zoological profession. For Olivera, “The conference left me feeling better prepared to hop into my new role and continue to provide exceptional care to our L.A. Zoo orangutan family.” For Vivian, “It is very important for me to have had the benefit of the updates and networking opportunities the OSSP continually provides for orangutan caregivers.”

Thanks to all three keepers for sharing their conference takeaways and the update on Berani. Guests can visit Berani’s mother (Kalim), younger sister (Elka), aunt (Rosie), and great aunt (Eloise) at the L.A. Zoo’s Red Ape Rain Forest habitat.