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Audubon Zoo Announce Birth of Sumatran Orangutan

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: March 1, 2021 7:30 pm

orangutan infant audubon zoo

The orangutan infant cuddles up with its mother at the Audubon Zoo

Photo Credit: Audubon Zoo

A critically endangered Sumatran orangutan infant was born in the early hours of February 28th 2021 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, USA. The birth came as a surprise to keepers who were expecting it to occur between April and May based on early signs and physical changes.

The mother is 12 year old Reese and this is her first infant. The father is resident male Jambi. Jambi came to the park from Hannover Zoo from Germany in 2018 and this is the second infant her has fathered. His arrival provided new genetic diversity to the US population of Sumatran orangutans.

Currently Reese and her infant are bonding well in an off-display area where they can be monitored by vets and the primate care team. The next 48 hours are said to be critical as the newborn learns how to nurse.

audubon zoo orangutan infant

The orangutan infant cuddles up with its mother at the Audubon Zoo

Photo Credit: Audubon Zoo

"We received the best kind of surprise this morning,” said Audubon Zoo’s Curator of Primates Liz Wilson. “It just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world currently, life is carrying on as normal for our orangutans. It’s really uplifting to see.”  

Reese may be a first time mother but has experience around infants. She was still with her mom when she gave birth to her brother at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo in New Mexico.

She also witnessed the Audubon Zoo's orangutan matriarch, Feliz give birth in 2019. This infant named Bulan has formed a special bond with Reese and they are often seen eating, sleeping and foraging together. Keepers hope these experiences will help her be a successful mother.

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Over the recent months keepers have been working together with Reese to train her for motherhood. As a first time parent keepers want to be prepared for possible lactation, basic mothering or group dynamic issues. The training would allow carers to feed or care for the baby while it remains with mom.

“Thus far, Reese is showing very positive signs of her maternal instincts kicking in,” said Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean. “She is holding the infant close and tending to it well. We are continuing to monitor for signs of nursing and lactation.”  

Reese the orangutan welcomes her infant at the Audubon Zoo

Photo Credit: Audubon Zoo

Sumatran orangutans are listed as critically endangered in the wild with as few as 14,000 thought to remain in the wild. They are threatened through human-wildlife conflict and the expansion of palm oil plantations in to their range.

“To help orangutans in the wild, we recommend purchasing products with sustainably grown palm oil,” said Wilson. “Around the world, those using sustainable practices in logging and agriculture are demonstrating that it is possible to conserve wildlife habitat while supporting the local economy.” 

At the Audubon Zoo the orangutan family serve as ambassadors for their species.

audubon zoo orangutan infant

The orangutan infant cuddles up with its mother at the Audubon Zoo

Photo Credit: Audubon Zoo

Learn more about Sumatran orangutans here – Sumatran orangutan Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Audubon Zoo on their website – Audubon Zoo

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