Denver Zoo Welcomes a New Orangutan and Its Awesome Beard

Think you've got the best beard in Denver?

Think again. That honor belongs to Bernas, the Denver Zoo's new supremely hirsute orangutan, whose spray of facial hair frames his sweet smile like a fuzzy sunburst.

See also: Drunk Woman Who Stumbled Into Elephant Exhibit Inspires New Denver Zoo Signage

Bernas, a twelve-year-old Sumatran orangutan, recently arrived at the Denver Zoo. He previously lived in Atlanta but was transferred to Denver in order to (hopefully!) mate with the zoo's 26-year-old female orangutan, Nias.

Let's hope their offspring inherit Bernas's style.

Read more about Bernas below, courtesy of the Denver Zoo.

Denver Zoo is thrilled to welcome the arrival of a twelve-year-old male Sumatran orangutan named Bernas (burr-NAHSS). He just arrived from Zoo Atlanta on January 13 under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Visitors can see him now exploring his new home in the Great Apes building in the Zoo's Primate Panorama. "Bernas" is a name that means "spirited" in Indonesian, though zookeepers describe him as very playful and sweet. They hope he will eventually breed with 26-year-old female orangutan, Nias (NEE-uhss). Nias is currently busy caring for her four-year-old daughter, Hesty, but soon she will be old enough to be considered independent so Nias could then devote attention to a new baby.
Orangutan means "person of the forest" in the Malay language, and the species is among the closest relatives to humans. Physically, they are known for their stout bodies, long arms and shaggy red hair. The orangutans at Denver Zoo can often be seen showing off their arboreal talents, swinging from ropes and trees in their expansive habitats.

Sumatran orangutans are only found on the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia. In the wild, they are critically endangered due to habitat loss stemming from logging, mining, forest fires and timber clearing for agriculture, including palm oil plantations, and human settlements. Also, the practice of killing a mother to secure an infant or juvenile for the live animal trade is common. Currently, there only about 6,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild. Although international efforts are underway to try to protect the remaining orangutans, if current trends continue, orangutans may be extinct in the wild within a decade.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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