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!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Menari, The Baby Orangutan at The Audubon Zoo

Menari, the Audubon Zoo's new baby orangutan, proves she is camera-ready

She has only two tiny front teeth, at the bottom of her mouth. She wears a baby's diaper. Her unruly orange hair looks ungroomed.

The thought of having to appear before a crowd looking like that would unnerve most people, but it doesn't seem to faze Menari, the Audubon Zoo's baby Sumatran orangutan.

Menari, the Audubon Zoo's new baby orangutan, smiles Thursday during a health check-up. She was all smiles during her official unveiling to the public Saturday.The 8-pound, 19-inch-tall starlet proved she was ready for her close-up Saturday afternoon when she proudly flashed her nearly toothless grin at dozens of zoo visitors pointing cell phones and digital cameras at her during her first official public appearance.

"I've never heard so many 'awws' in one day in my life, ' " said Jerry Dillon Jr., a primate keeper who held her most of the day. "They love her."

Menari, whose name means "dance" in Indonesian, was born at the zoo June 10 to first-time mother Feliz and father Berani, who briefly escaped his zoo enclosure earlier this year. Menari became the first orangutan born at Audubon since 1996 and was one of just two orang births in the United States this year, zoo officials said.

Her species is endangered in its Indonesian homeland. Illegal logging, hunting, illegal pet trading and the conversion of rain forests into palm oil plantations have devastated orangutans' natural habitat and reduced their numbers.

Menari's birth, then, merited close attention. Staff members placed her in a nursery at the zoo's Animal Health Care Center. There, about a dozen caretakers take turns sleeping on a cot and feeding her out of a bottle, changing her diaper and playing with her when she wants attention, said Ty Fayard, the zoo's assistant curator of mammals.

Menari falls asleep about 10 p.m. and often wakes her caretakers with cries for attention as early as 4:30 a.m. "It's almost like taking care of a human baby, " Fayard said.

Baby orangutan Menari looks at the window of the Audubon Zoo's Animal Health Care Center on Thursday. On Saturday, dozens of zoo guest snapped photos of her during her first official public appearance.Staff members feed Menari from bottles because Feliz, a first-time mother, has had trouble nursing, as do many first-time orangutan mothers, zoo spokeswoman Sarah Burnette said.

"She loves that baby so much, though, " Burnette said.

After Feliz's daily visits with her youngster, she tries to bar the keepers from taking Menari away again. Allowing her to keep Menari would pose a problem, though, since she can't properly feed the baby.

Fayard, Dillon and their colleagues are working to let mother and child move in together. They hope to teach Feliz to carry Menari over to caretakers for feedings whenever they ring a dinner bell, and at the same time to teach Menari to approach her caretakers to get fed when the bell rings.

Learning that behavior will help Menari join the other orangutans in the main primate exhibit, hopefully by January, Fayard said.

Menari, who will appear in public for about 90 minutes each day starting at 1 p.m., spent her first day in public sitting in Dillon's lap atop a pink blanket and under a white tent on a grassy knoll. She was kept about 10 yards away from visitors.

Dillon, Fayard and any other human beings near Menari had to wear surgical masks to protect her from germs. Dillon also wore a ginger-colored vest mimicking the hairy chest of an orangutan, both to comfort Menari and to give her a surface to clutch with her hands and feet.

Crowds as large as 20 people pressed against the exhibit's railing. Many mothers and fathers held up children who waved at Menari. Others wormed their way to the front to snap photos. Most of the photos showed Menari sitting in Dillon's lap, gazing around wide-eyed with her mouth agape.

In other pictures, she seemed to smile as Dillon held her up for the crowd to see. At times she swung on Dillon's thumb, banged a toy tambourine with her hands and chewed on a caterpillar-shaped rattle.

Many zoo visitors didn't realize it was Menari's coming-out day. Ellen Breaux, 8, said she was happy to leave with a "pretty awesome" surprise.

"She's pretty cute, " her friend Ava Jennings, 10, added.

Menari climbed off Dillon and stretched out on her back about 2:20 p.m.

Apparently delighted with the camera clicks she heard all day, she turned her face to the crowd as she shut her eyes for a nap.


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