A critically endangered Bornean orangutan has been born at Chester Zoo - the first of its kind in almost a decade.

The new arrival was born at 11:15am on Sunday morning (April 2) in front of a handful of incredulous onlookers, following an eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy for mum Sarikei.

It's the first offspring for dad Willie, and zookeeper Chris Yarwood said seeing Sarieki holding her tiny newborn was 'amazing'.

“Seeing mum Sarieki holding her tiny baby close is an amazing sight," said Chris.

"It has been eight years since we last celebrated the birth of a Bornean orangutan at the zoo but it’s well worth the wait.

Sarieki holding her newborn

“This is Sarikei’s third baby and although it’s very early days, she is so far doing a wonderful job of caring for her little one. She’s a great mum.

“It’s also the first youngster that our male Willie has sired. He has a great personality and we’re very hopeful that he will make a great father as he is still young himself and enjoys playing with the other orangutans.”

Zoo conservationists say that the baby is a huge boost to a breeding programme which is working to conserve the iconic species who face an uncertain future in the wild.

Tim Rowlands, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said the numbers of Bornean orangutan numbers are plummeting at 'a frightening rate', with as few as 55,000 left in Borneo.

"A major threat to the survival of these magnificent creatures is the unsustainable oil palm industry which is having a devastating effect on the forests where they live," he added. "They are also the victims of habitat loss and illegal hunting.

“Those who are responsible for their decline have pushed them to the very edge of existence – and if the rate of loss continues, they could very well be extinct in the next few decades.

"It’s therefore absolutely vital that we have a sustainable population of Bornean orangutans in zoos and every addition to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme is so, so important."

Sarikei and her new baby can be found in the zoo’s Realm of the Red Ape habitat, alongside other Bornean orangutans Willie, Martha, Iznee, Leia and Tuan.