Baby orangutan born at New Orleans zoo; next days critical as baby’s survival depends on learning to nurse

Published 10:55 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

It’s an orangutan! The Audubon Zoo has announced the birth of a critically endangered Sumatran orangutan to longtime inhabitant Feliz and Jambi , a male brought from Germany last fall.

The species has been drastically reduced by hunting and by destruction of the forests where they live. Fewer than 14,000 of the great apes with long red hair are believed to exist in the wild, and “overall numbers continue to decline dramatically ,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Veterinarians don’t yet know the baby’s sex, zoo spokeswoman Lauren Messina Conrad said in an email.

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Zookeepers are keeping a close eye on mother and baby because the first 72 hours are when orangutans learn to nurse, a news release said. But they’re not yet looking closely enough to tell whether it’s a boy or a girl.

The baby was born early Wednesday and Feliz is an attentive mother, according to the statement. The zoo hopes she’ll be able to do everything needed for the baby.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Feliz for showing such great signs (of) taking care of the new infant. More importantly, with this birth we hope zoo visitors will connect with a species on the brink of extinction and want to start making the little changes in their lives to help save them,” Courtney Eparvier, curator of primates and sea lions, said in the news release.

The baby wasn’t yet nursing early Thursday afternoon, Conrad wrote.

This is the second baby for Feliz, 30. She gave birth in 2009 to a female named Menari, who is out in public with Jambi, 23, and another 10-year-old female named Reese.

Jambi came from the Hannover Adventure Zoo , which decided to stop exhibiting orangutans because its 38-year-old enclosure didn’t meet modern standards.