The Greenville Zoo says a 19-day-old female Sumatran orangutan that was hand-raised following a cesarean section delivery is finally in the arms of her mother.
Zoo officials say the 3.4-pound baby orangutan was physically introduced to her mother, Lana, for the first time earlier this week. Since then, Lana has been constantly cradling and nursing her baby.
The unnamed infant was born via C-section on Aug. 7 to Lana, a 33-year-old female, and Kumar, a 13-year-old male. She is the first orangutan to be born at the Greenville Zoo in 12 years, according to zoo director 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.
Following the birth of Lana’s baby, the zoo provided around-the-clock care for the infant to ensure Lana’s sutures stayed in place, and that she had fully recovered from the stress of the immobilization, anesthesia, and surgery before she was tasked with caring for her baby.
Since infant orangutans instinctively cling to their mothers during the first few months of life, the zoo’s staff had to carry the baby for 24 hours a day, according to zoo curator Keith Gilchrist. Staff members took four-hour shifts wearing specialized vests that were outfitted with strips the newborn could cling to.
Zookeeper Jennifer Stahl said caring for the baby orangutan was similar to caring for a human baby.
“It’s an endless cycle of sleeping and feeding,” she said.
Sarah Schwenzer, a veterinary technician at the zoo, said the zoo used up to 18 bottles of formula per day to feed the baby orangutan. The infant feeds about every two hours.
The zoo’s veterinary staff also performed daily medical assessments on the newborn, taking its temperature and recording its weight, Schwenzer said.
Last week, the zoo’s staff met and decided that Lana was healthy and ready to care for her infant. The duo has since been separated from Kumar and given access to several indoor dens that have been baby-proofed with padded floors and cleared of shelving and climbing materials, according to Bullock.
The zoo will continue to monitor Lana and her baby through the day and overnight via closed-circuit cameras, noting when and how long the baby nurses and anything else that occurs to ensure that Lana is taking care of the infant.
It will also place cameras inside the dens to give visitors an opportunity to view the pair via a television monitor from inside the orangutan viewing area.
Zookeepers briefly introduced the baby orangutan to her outdoor habitat earlier this week, allowing visitors to catch a quick glimpse of the infant through a viewing window.
Bullock said the zoo plans to hold a naming contest for Lana’s baby in the coming weeks.
Visitors can expect to see the orangutan family together on exhibit this fall or next spring if the reintroduction is successful, Bullock said.
For more information, visit greenvillezoo.com.