GULF BREEZE  — The Gulf Breeze Zoo welcomed a new family to its great apes exhibit last month.

The zoo, in conjunction with the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut, worked to bring a family group of six orangutans to Gulf Breeze on Jan. 15, 2019 according to a press release from the Gulf Breeze Zoo.

“This is an incredible homecoming for us, as two of the orangutans were here 10 years ago” said Eric Mogensen, CEO of the Gulf Breeze Zoo. “Sara gave birth to her daughter, Indah, at Gulf Breeze Zoo in 2005 before they were relocated to LEO."

While in Connecticut, the orangutans were grouped together with other orangutans and did well, according the press release. The new group — four females, an adult male and a 4-year-old baby male still with his mother — were all delivered back to the zoo as a unit.

The Gulf Breeze Zoo was selected as the new home for the orangutans based on the facility’s high standards, dedication to conservation and large natural ape habitats, the press release said. 

The specially designed island habitat is over 43,000 square feet, providing one of the largest orangutan habitats in the United States. The island provides a lush environment including mature trees and climbing structures. Coupled with the warm temperatures and humidity, Florida provides an ideal environment that mimics their wild home in Southeast Asia.

 “With less than 300 individuals in zoological parks in North America, it’s an honor to work with these iconic species,” said Katy Massey, conservation coordinator. “But, our goal is bigger than six individuals. We want to help save the entire species.”

Orangutan populations, according to the release, have declined by as much as 97 percent in the past century. Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, which means fewer and fewer homes for the species.

As the Gulf Breeze Zoo continues to develop conservation efforts around the globe, they will not only be providing financial aid to programs in the field, but also developing stateside programs to raise awareness of the palm oil crisis. While the orangutans are the centerpiece of this campaign, conservation programs will benefit other species they share the jungle with, such as siamangs, gibbons, clouded leopards, tapirs, rhinos and elephants.

 The Gulf Breeze Zoo is privately owned and receives zero tax dollars. Funding for conservation programs like these are made possible through the continued support of zoo guests. The orangutans can be viewed daily depending on weather conditions.

The Zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located just off U.S. Highway 98. Visit www.GBZoo.com for event updates, seasonal hours and more.