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The Audubon Zoo’s baby orangutan shows signs of improvement

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 4:36 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A baby orangutan at the Audubon Zoo shows more signs of improvement, according to zoo veterinarians, but still faces some hurdles.

“Probably this last week, it felt better,” said Dr. Dan Cutler, the zoo’s associate veterinarian.

Cutler said the still-unnamed baby needs to build up his grip, “and we need to teach him how to take a bottle from us through the mesh.”

The infant’s twin was stillborn. Zoo staff are still waiting on necropsy results to tell them why, and possibly provide some hints into the surviving baby’s health.

Within days of its birth, 12-year-old mother, Menari, was having trouble lactating.

A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan in New Orleans has given birth to a healthy male...
A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan in New Orleans has given birth to a healthy male baby, but his twin brother died in the womb.

Handlers have been bottle feeding the infant since.

“Right now, I give him a fair-to-good prognosis,” Cutler said. “I think if you had spoken to me a couple weeks ago, I probably would have been much more guarded.”

Due largely to the loss of habitat, Sumatran orangutans are listed as “critically endangered,” according to scientists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The baby is spending time behind the scenes with the other orangutans but is still separated from them.

“They come up and they’re very interested in him, but they’re not able to touch,” Cutler said. “Once they did that, we couldn’t convince them to give him back and he’s not quite ready for that.”

Orangutan infants in similar difficulty at other zoos have been reintroduced to parents sometimes at three or four months old. Assuming things go well, they will have some time together before the big public debut.

“Then, we might be able to look at the public being able to meet him in person,” Cutler said.

The main goal, Cutler said, is to have a healthy baby.

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