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7 December 2011

Sumatran Orang-utan Dewi celebrated her first birthday on December 6th, along with mother Maimunah, father Santan, and big brother Menyaru.

Dewi opened some birthday treat boxes, with help from her mother, but seemed just as interested in the wrapping paper as the treats.

She also picked the beautiful berries off the top of a birthday pavlova, which was the preferred option due to her father's gluten intolerance.

Sumatran Orang-utans are under extreme threat in their native habitat, largely because that rainforest is disappearing so rapidly due to the expansion of palm oil plantations.

In addition to losing their treetops homes, orang-utans also suffer injury and even death during the forest clearing process.

Zoo Director Kevin Tanner says that orang-utans have the longest interval between births of any mammal species, because babies need so much nurturing from their mothers before they can survive independently.

That means that the loss of any individual adult or baby leaves a huge gap in the population which takes years to fill.

Mother Maimunah was brought from her birthplace in Switzerland to meet Toronto Zoo-born Santan at Melbourne Zoo as part of the endangered species breeding program for their critically endangered species.

Maimunah proved to be a marvellous Mum from the start, giving excellent care to her firstborn, the eight-year-old male Menyaru, and again to Dewi from her birth last year through to her first birthday tomorrow.

Dewi is healthy and active, and now she is beginning to venture out of her mother's arms to explore her surroundings.

The Zoo's community conservation campaign ‘Don't Palm us Off' is aiming to help improve the future of the orang-utan babies being born in Sumatra now.

Palm oil is included in more than half of the manufactured foods on Australian supermarket shelves, but it is difficult for consumers to make informed choices, because it is currently legal to label it as ‘vegetable oil'.

The Don't Palm us Off campaign is seeking legislative change to require specific labelling of palm oil, so consumers can make informed selections. This aims to encourage the production and purchase of sustainably produced palm oil, from plantations established without damaging wildlife habitat.

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