The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baby Orangutan, On Display at The Audubon Zoo

NEW ORLEANS – You'll soon see a new face at the Audubon Zoo. A baby orangutan is ready to make her first public appearance, while veterinarians and cardiologists team up in a unique medical program that has man and the great apes working together.

3-month-old Menari is getting her final medical exam before her big public appearance on Saturday. When she was born back in June, her mother was gentle and loving but did not know how to feed her.

"Whenever the baby would cry she would try to comfort her. The way she would do this unfortunately, was basically raise her to her mouth and allow the baby to suckle on her tongue. We were not able to observe any nursing from the nipples and we were very concerned about this," said Dr. Robert MacLean, senior veterinarian for Audubon Nature Institute.

So the baby orangutan is being raised by Audubon curators, staying and sleeping next to her 24 hours a day. There are the around the clock formula feedings, the nighttime rockings, and her favorite bedtime toy – and yes, only in New Orleans, the Boeuf Gras from the Rex parade.

But still every day she and her real mother reunite.

"The bond is there. We make sure she sees her mother every day so that maternal bond has not been broken. We want to make sure it doesn't break,"

said Tyrene Fayard, Audubon Institute's assistant curator of mammals for primates and sea lions.

"Her mother is very attentive and very interested in Menari, is very gentle with her will stroke her," said MacLean.

Everyone around baby Menari has to be careful not to spread germs like the flu.

"She's a great ape and they are susceptible to the same diseases that humans are," said MacLean.

This little girl, genetically, is very important. Orangutans are endangered, and she's one of only two born in captivity in the U.S. this year. People destroy their habitat and kill their mothers in the wild to sell the babies as pets, not a good idea since they grow to be strong, intelligent and range from 100 to 250 pounds.

Menari will live in the primate exhibit at the zoo with her mother, father and other orangutans, and she'll not only get her vet exams, but she'll also be visited by cardiologists, human heart experts from Ochsner. In a cooperative venture, doctors perform echocardiograms on the primates and even a lion to make sure they don't have heart disease.

"Surprisingly all the hearts look very similar to human hearts and all looked well, normal flow patterns, normal function. We were amazed by how strong and healthy they looked," said Dr. Hans Mulder, a pediatric cardiologist and director of the Pediatric Echo Lab at Ochsner.

"Catching it early enough to be able to medicate the animal and keep them alive much longer and that's the goal," MacLean said.

These primates live twice as long in captivity and can get an enlarged heart. It could be from stress, diet, genetic inbreeding, captivity itself, but Ochsner doctors believe they are helping human primates as well.

"I think it is a lot of fun to do and it makes sense for a pediatric cardiology group to be involved, I think, with the zoo being so important for children," Mulder said.

Beginning this Saturday, baby Menari will make her first public appearance. She'll be in the primate exhibit area from 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. daily.

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