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!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Orangutan Babe and Mum are Both Doing Well

Tua the Sumatran orangutan and her new baby are just fine. But it´ll be days before zookeepers can get close enough to discover whether it´s male or female.
CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Tua the Sumatran orangutan and her new baby are just fine. But it'll be days before zookeepers can get close enough to discover whether it's male or female.

Zookeepers peeked into the would-be mother's bedroom periodically to make sure all was OK. An obstetrician from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital was on call if needed.

But in the end, nature took its course with no human assistance.

Tua, the 16-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Philadelphia Zoo, delivered a baby yesterday at 8 a.m.

The keepers are not getting too close for now, and the public won't get a look for at least a week. No one wants to interfere with the bond between mother and the zoo's first baby orang in 17 years. So the zoo doesn't know whether it's a boy or girl, and is waiting to decide on a name.

But Tua, a first-time mother, is engaging in proper maternal behavior and all seems well so far.

"She's got the baby kind of tucked in close to her," said Kim Lengel, a general curator at the zoo. "She's made a nest."

Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, as much of their natural habitat on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has been cleared to make room for palm-tree plantations. Their numbers are down to just a few thousand in the wild.

The Sumatran orangutans in North American zoos - now numbering 83 with the new addition - would never be sent to Indonesia. But they are seen as ambassadors for educating people about their wild brethren, and they also serve as a living storehouse of genetic information.

The father of the Philadelphia Zoo's new little ape is named Sugriwa - Sugi for short - and he has not been in to see his offspring. In the wild, he would not be an active parent, but male orangs sometimes lend a hand in zoos.

"They really seem to enjoy it," said Lori Perkins, an orangutan expert and director of animal programs at Zoo Atlanta. "They really like to play with the kids."

Stuart Weiner, the Jefferson ob-gyn who was on call in case the birth took a difficult turn, said Tua was his first furry patient. He saw her twice during the eight-month pregnancy, once feeling her belly through the wire mesh that divides her from her human keepers.

"It was quite humbling," said Weiner, who felt he was in the presence of an intelligent being. "Tua has very meaningful eyes."

The orangutan's anatomy is very close to the human's, yet Weiner said he still studied up on the subject and consulted with the zoo's veterinarians. He would have been summoned only in the event of bleeding or other maternal distress, in case a C-section was necessary.

As it was, he didn't hear of the birth until several hours afterward. Keepers watched discreetly as Tua cleared mucus from the baby's nostrils. As happens in the wild, the mother also ate the placenta, Lengel said.

The next step for keepers is to make sure the baby learns to nurse. A good sign is that Tua has been cradling the newborn properly, shifting the baby around when it cries. Some first-time mothers are afraid of their offspring, said Perkins, who is in charge of the species-survival plan for orangutans at North American zoos.

"The fact that she responded perfectly right from the beginning," Perkins said, "gives me a really good feeling."


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