By Anica Padilla

DENVER (CBS4) — A male orangutan has taken on an unusual role at the Denver Zoo, after the death of the family’s matriarch last month. Nias, a Sumatran orangutan, died unexpectedly on Dec. 17 at age 32. Nias had two daughters Hesty, who is 10, and Cerah, who is just two years old. On Tuesday, zoo officials said Cerah’s father, Berani, had “stepped up to the plate” and was taking care of the youngster.

(credit: Denver Zoo)

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“In the wild, orangutan males are not involved with their offspring. To see Berani step up as Mr. Mom, is an extremely rare situation—and Cerah couldn’t have asked for a better dad,” officials said.

“Berani is so attentive and protective of her, seeing to all her needs. He will carry her, comfort her, and even snuggles her when she sleeps,” they said.

Berani even seems to tolerate Cerah nibbling on his chin!

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(credit: Denver Zoo)

Zoo officials said “big sis Hesty” has also been taking on her share with Cerah, and plays with her throughout the day.

“The three of them are sticking together and moving forward.”

“Nias came to Denver Zoo in 2005 when she was 17 years old, and spent the last 15 years delighting guests and serving as an ambassador for her critically-endangered species,” the Denver Zoo wrote in a previous Facebook post. “We do not know the cause of Nias’ death at this time, and are awaiting the results of a necropsy from our partners at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Services.”

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Anica Padilla