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'Critically endangered' orangutan born at Audubon Zoo on Christmas Eve

The surviving infant is now bonding with its mother and his health is being closely monitored.
Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

NEW ORLEANS — The Audubon Nature Institute says one of its zoo's critically endangered Sumatran orangutans who was pregnant with twins gave birth to a healthy male infant on Friday. Sadly, the ape's second infant died before birth.

The zoo says Menari, a first-time mother, was able to give birth to the first twin without any problems, but after she rested and showed no apparent signs of progression, a team of veterinary staff intervenes to assist her. On-call professionals, including a local OBGYN and neonatology experts, anesthetized Menari and determined by ultrasound that the second infant was badly positioned and had died.

"Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans. There is only about a 1% chance of this happening, and twin births are inherently high risk," the zoo said.

The surviving infant is now bonding with its mother and his health is being closely monitored. The zoo says the baby is already nursing well.

"This is a bittersweet time for our team, but, given the very serious complications with the second infant, we are extremely happy that Menari and the surviving infant are together and doing well," Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean said.

Menari, who was born at the Audubon Zoo in 2009, was able to observe her mother, Feliz, giving birth and raising her half-sister, Bulan, in 2019. She also witnessed Reese give birth to Madu in Feb. 2021.

"This recent experience with infants has helped to prepare Menari for motherhood," the zoo said.

The zoo says Sumatran orangutans are classified as "critically endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are reportedly fewer than 14,000 living orangutans living in the wild and their numbers are declining due to human-wildlife conflict because of the spread of palm oil plantations into forest habitats.

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