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Baby Orangutan At San Diego Zoo Branching Out On Its Own

A 5-month-old Sumatran orangutan at the San Diego Zoo is starting to climb on her own and move around independently of her mother, animal keepers said Friday.

The orangutan, named Aisha, can be seen most mornings exploring the climbing structure in her habitat, which has swings, ropes and hammocks to climb and play on.

Zoo officials said Aisha often grips tightly on mother Indah's orange hair as she swings around the habitat and forages for food. Now that she's getting bigger, guests may see her give her a gentle push up onto the ropes to practice her climbing skills.

"Mom is always staying close by, but she's definitely letting Aisha go out on her own more," said Amanda Jurasek, a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. "She's pushing her to start climbing and teaching her those vital skills she'll need as she gets older."

While Aisha is still nursing, she is becoming more curious about tasting solid foods and has been observed mouthing at lettuce and grapes, and even sampling some peanuts and sunflower seeds, according to the zoo. So far though, Indah hasn't been willing to share too much of her vegetarian diet with her youngster.

Orangutans typically stay with their mothers until they're about 8 years old, the longest childhood of the great apes.

Orangutans live in tropical and swamp forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

The Sumatran orangutan is considered critically endangered, with an estimate of less than 7,000 remaining in the wild. Their population has declined drastically in recent years as a result of over-harvesting of timber, human encroachment and habitat conversion to palm oil plantations.

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