Baby orangutan being bottle-fed intrigues others

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The endangered Sumatran orangutan infant at New Orleans’ zoo is being bottle-fed because his mother wasn’t producing enough milk.

The still unnamed baby was being tube-fed as well, but the tube was removed January 13, Audubon Zoo spokeswoman Annie Kinler Matherne said on Wednesday.

The great apes named for their long red hair are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Threats to the Sumatran species include hunting and the destruction of the forests and peat swamps where they spend nearly all their time in trees.

Twelve-year-old Menari gave birth to the baby on Christmas Eve; a twin brother was stillborn. Days later, the baby was showing signs of weakness and lack of nursing.

Veterinarians examined Menari, a first-time mother, and discovered the lactation problem.

An endangered Sumatran orangutan infant, who was born on December 24, 2021, is bottle-fed milk in New Orleans. PHOTO: AP

Since then the infant has had round-the-clock care from zoo staffers wearing furry vests that the baby can cling to.

Until the feeding tube was removed, their duties included making sure he didn’t pick or pull at the thin tube inserted through his nose.

He’s been eating well and now weighs 1.98 kilogrammes, Audubon Nature Institute Vice President and general curator Bob Lessnau said in a statement sent by Matherne.

Since January 8, six to seven hours a day has been spent in front of the other orangutans so they can get to know him, Lessnau said.

“Care staff have noticed that the group is most intrigued when there is a diaper change or a bottle feed happening!” a January 13 update said.

Bulan, at age two the oldest of father Jambi’s three New Orleans offspring, “is especially interested in the new little guy”, the statement said.

Madu, the second, was born in February 2021.

Experts from Children’s Hospital of New Orleans have helped out, including a speech pathologist brought in to suggest ways to stimulate the baby’s suckling, Lessnau said.