Special Delivery: Veterinary Medical Center Welcomes Baby Orangutan
For Immediate Release
Contact: Brian Graves, Communications Manager, 612-624-6228
University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center clinicians and staff helped deliver Como Zoo's first successful cesarean primate birth with the delivery of a male orangutan.
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Baby Orangutan Welcomed Into World with The Help of Many
Como's first Cesarean Primate Birth Successful
Saint Paul, Minn. (January 8, 2008) –Como Park Zoo and Conservatory welcomed the newest addition to its primate family on December 13 with the birth of a male Sumatran orangutan via cesarean section- a medical first for the historic Saint Paul Zoo. The baby’s successful birth is the result of a partnership that merged the skills of Como Zoo’s zookeepers and veterinarians from University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, along with medical staff from University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, Fairview including two OB-GYN physicians.
When orangutan Markisa’s labor began it became apparent that something was not right and that keepers and vets had to intervene. Fortunately, a birth management plan was prepared in advance which outlined steps to take for such a crisis. Markisa was transferred to the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota, where a cesarean section was performed on the orangutan by vets and medical staff from both the Veterinary Medical Center and University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital, Fairview.
The male baby orangutan was in critical condition the first few hours after delivery and the mother was transferred back to Como Zoo to recuperate. Over the next 11 days, ICU staff and Como keepers spent 24 hours a day holding the baby while wearing an orange furry vest, which allowed the baby orangutan to cling to the keeper as he would cling to his own mother. To the best of Como’s ability, special care was taken to ensure he developed his natural orangutan instincts to help him with his reintroduction back to mom.
On December 16, the baby ape was brought back to Como Zoo to begin the reintroduction process back to mom Markisa. There was some concern as to whether or not she would care for (and nurse) him since she was a first-time mom and had not birthed him naturally. Fortunately, she had many factors stacked in her favor for positive maternal abilities: she was parent-reared and had the opportunity to observe the birth and rearing of another orangutan at Como. The reintroduction process began by first using scents, then sight and then touch. On Christmas Day, keepers passed the baby off to mom and her natural maternal instincts were immediately apparent and nursing was confirmed within 24 hours. The successful reintroduction was supported by expertise of Busch Gardens who has experienced a similar situation of reintroducing a mom and c-section infant orangutan. Busch Gardens sent a zookeeper over the Christmas week to help with the reintroduction process.
Mom and baby have been off exhibit allowing them to bond and be closely monitored. They will be spending limited time in the public exhibit space over the next several weeks as Como’s new mom becomes comfortable in her new role. On Thursday, January 10, Como will be offering the media’s first glimpse of the baby and mom, along with the staff that assisted in his delivery and care during the first few weeks of his life.
The orangutan baby was born to Markisa, a 20-year-old female orangutan and Jambu Aye, a 22-year-old male. Mom and dad arrived at Como from other zoos in 1995 as part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program for future breeding purposes in an effort to boost the Sumatran orangutan population. This is the 14th orangutan birth at Como since exhibiting orangutans in 1959. The last birth was Willie in 1999. Como currently has six red apes including this new addition.
Como strives to educate the public about the many issues facing orangutans in the wild through its numerous educational programs, keeper talks, and its annual Orangutan Awareness Weekend. Como Zoo also has a successful cell phone recycling program that raises money to support the Orangutan Conservancy and in-situ field conservation projects.
About 200 orangutans are currently on exhibit in zoos throughout the United States. Their native population, found only in Sumatra and Borneo, has drastically dwindled due to logging, conversion of habitat to palm oil plantations, and a series of wildfires –all of which put the species under the treat of extinction, potentially within the next 10-15 years. Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered, with approximately only 7,000 left in the wild. Oranguntans are the largest arboreal (tree-dwelling) mammal. “Orang-utan” means “person of the forest.” They are the only Great Ape found in Asia.
Como Park Zoo and Conservatory Background
For over 100 years, Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota has charmed, educated and entertained millions of children and adults while fostering an appreciation of the natural world. The Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is open 365 days; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from April 1-October 1 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. from October 2-March 31. Admission to both the Como Zoo and Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is always free and a voluntary donation is appreciated.
The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine improves the health and well-being of animals and people by providing high-quality veterinary training, conducting leading-edge research, delivering innovative veterinary services, and leading and supporting critical public health initiatives. For more information, visit www.cvm.umn.edu.