Greenville Zoo announces first orangutan birth in 12 years

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The Greenville Zoo announced on Tuesday the arrival of a female Sumatran orangutan born to residents Lana, a 33-year-old female, and Kumar, a 13-year-old male. Photo provided by Greenville Zoo.

The Greenville Zoo has a new baby animal, the first of its kind to be born there in over a decade.

Zoo officials announced on Tuesday, Aug. 7 the arrival of a female Sumatran orangutan born to parents Lana, a 33-year-old female, and Kumar, a 13-year-old male.

It is the first orangutan birth at the Greenville Zoo in 12 years, according to administrator Jeff Bullock. The last orangutan born at the zoo was Bob, a male Bornean orangutan born to parents Mia and Chelsea in 2006. All three orangutans have since been transferred to other zoos.

Lana and her 2.9-pound newborn appear to be healthy, according to Bullock. But a birth management team of seven staff members will care for the newborn until Lana has recovered from the cesarean section she underwent on Monday night.

Bullock said Lana began showing signs of labor around 10 p.m. Monday but began to tire as her contractions became more intense and the intervals shorter.

The zoo’s staff members discussed the changes with local medical consultants, including an obstetrician-gynecologist and neonatologist, and decided to transfer Lana to a local veterinary hospital for the C-section, according to the release.

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Lana has since been monitored and provided with medication to help manage the pain from the surgery as she comes out of the anesthesia, according to the release.

The birth management team will work in shifts around the clock, caring for and feeding the newborn orangutan until Lana is well enough to do so.

Once Lana and her baby are reunited, they will be separated from Kumar and put into a den that’s “baby-proofed” with padded floors and cleared of shelving and climbing materials, Bullock told the Greenville Journal earlier this year.

In preparation for the birth, the zoo’s keepers started training Lana to hold and nurse her newborn by using a stuffed-animal orangutan.

If Lana rejects her baby or is unable to provide proper maternal care, the zoo said it will explore options such as partial hand-rearing or identifying a surrogate mother orangutan at another zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Details about Lana’s recovery and the baby’s progress will be shared in the coming days and additional pictures will be posted and shared on social media, according to the zoo.

Lana, the Greenville Zoo’s female Sumatran orangutan. Photo provided.

Bullock said Lana had never been given an opportunity to reproduce before arriving at the Greenville Zoo. Lana was born at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 1985 and transferred to the Cincinnati Zoo in 1990. She was sent to the Greenville Zoo two years ago on a breeding loan from Cincinnati, according to Bullock.

The Species Survival Program, a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that oversees breeding in accredited facilities to ensure the survival of threatened or endangered species, recommended her as a mate for Kumar. It wasn’t an easy courtship, however.

“Introducing animals can always be tricky,” Bullock told the Greenville Journal earlier this year. “What I think made this situation trickier was the age difference. Kumar is just more active than she is.”

Kumar was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas in 2005. Since arriving at the Greenville Zoo in 2016, the 13-year-old orangutan has broken out of his enclosure three times. His most recent escape took place in January, when the zoo was closed for annual maintenance.

Despite their differences in personality and age, Lana and Kumar eventually “learned to tolerate one another and were able to set their personal boundaries,” the release said.

In May 2017, the keepers at the Greenville Zoo began to notice the physical characteristics of pregnancy becoming apparent in Lana. A human pregnancy test confirmed she was, indeed, expecting. Lana, however, suffered a miscarriage three months later.

Bullock said the zoo will likely hold a naming contest for Lana’s new baby. Visitors can expect to see the orangutan family together on exhibit this fall or next spring, depending on the weather.

For more information, visit greenvillezoo.com.

Did you know? 

Sumatran orangutans are considered one of the world’s 25 most-endangered primates and are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population is estimated to be under 15,000 in the wild.

Rampant logging and the rapid expansion of palm-oil plantations have been blamed for destroying their jungle habitat throughout Indonesia, according to Kapustin. Plantation workers and villagers also attack adult orangutans that feed on their crops, while poachers capture babies to sell as exotic pets.

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