Baby Care

Baby orangutan gets 24/7 care under guidance of experts in human babies

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The newborn orangutan born on Christmas Eve remains under the watchful care of specialists at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.

The baby, a member of a critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan, was taken from its mother after caretakers noticed the child was listless. Just as the OBGYNs helped with the birth, the zoo has now turned to human newborn experts to help.

“The infant care team also noticed that their sucking response was poor and inconsistent,” said Audubon’s senior veterinarian, Bob MacLean. “The New Orleans Children’s Hospital has offered its support to the critically endangered infant by providing the expertise of a clinical speech-language pathologist and breastfeeding specialists. Lactation specialists work with the infant to assess their sucking reflex and train our team to stimulate the appropriate sucking response. So far it has been very successful.

The Children’s Hospital tests the infant’s blood in the hospital, providing Audubon with faster results than a veterinary lab. Laboratory work so far indicates possible central hypothyroidism.

Twelve-year-old Menari gave birth to the unnamed baby without a problem on Christmas Eve and was properly mothering him, but she had problems after that, according to a press release.

A team of on-call healthcare professionals has been recruited, including local specialists in OBGYN and neonatology who typically treat humans. It turned out that Menari was carrying twins, and the second baby did not survive.


The fur shirt helps the baby feel secure.

The great apes named for their long red hair are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Threats include hunting and the destruction of forests and peatlands where they spend most of their time in trees.

Fewer than 14,000 people live in the wild and their numbers are dwindling as oil palm plantations spread through their forest habitat, according to the Audubon Nature Institute, which operates the zoo.


Guardians try to keep the newborn Sumatran Orangutan feeling cuddly and safe even though he has been removed from his mother for health reasons.

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