Vandu swings in from Hungary to take up role as zoo's new star

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 January, 2010, 12:00am

The city's oldest zoo has got itself a new star, and Vandu the male Borneo orang-utan has been given two serious missions.

The 15-year-old primate arrived in Hong Kong from a zoo in Hungary last Friday and is in quarantine. Vandu will go on public view at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens in Central in late February.

Most of his time will be spent with two female orang-utans, aged 25 and 14, and it is hoped Vandu will do his bit for the zoo's breeding programme.

Orang-utans are native to tropical Borneo and Sumatra. They have an average lifespan of about 35 years in the wild, although they can live much longer in captivity.

It is estimated there are only 45,000 orang-utans left in the wild. They face increasing threats from habitat destruction and illegal poaching for meat, as well as the global pet trade.

The primates are solitary for most of their lives, apart from brief periods of mating and raising their young.

They seldom leave the trees for the ground, swinging from one branch to another and eating fruit, leaves, bark and bird eggs.

Vandu's second mission is to help boost visitor numbers through conservation education activities. The primate is believed to be the zoo's most significant acquisition since its star jaguar, Siu Fa, died in June 2008.

It decided to scrap a plan to replace the jaguar after animal welfare groups raised concerns about the suitability of the zoo for jaguars.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which manages the zoo, expected that its newest arrival, Vandu, would be as popular as its other primates.

The zoo is home to 60 primates, which account for 11 of its 17 mammal species. The department said it would continue to study and introduce rare and endangered species to the zoo, for breeding and conservation education purposes.

The zoo has more than 500 animals, including birds and reptiles.