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Zoo Orangutan is Pregnant Despite Birth Control


St. Louis, MO – Merah the orangutan is pregnant. That comes despite a daily regimen of birth control pills.

And there's even more mystery at the St. Louis Zoo over who the father is.

"Needless to say, we have a lot of unanswered questions," primate curator Ingrid Porton said. "It's a little embarrassing, I have to admit."

Zookeepers have been giving 35-year-old Merah a daily birth control pill mixed into yogurt and honey. It's a way to prevent overcrowding and inbreeding. Porton suspects the mixture either spilled or was swiped by her 8-year-old son Sugi.

The how is less important than the who, however. Scientists hope the father is 40-year-old Junior, a previous mate with great genes. But it could be Sugi, Merah and Junior's son. Merah has had liaisons with both. "That's not uncommon in the wild or in captivity," Porton said.

Tests will determine paternity. Merah appears near the end of her eight-month term.

"If she is pregnant by Sugi, it's not the worst thing in the world. It's successive inbreeding that is a problem," Porton said. "But if she's pregnant by Junior, it's a wonderful thing."