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Where EAST meets the Northwest

BOTTLE BABY. An endangered Sumatran orangutan infant, who was born on December 24, 2021, is bottle-fed milk in this undated photo provided by the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. The infant is being bottle-fed because its mother wasnít producing enough milk. (Audubon Zoo via AP)

From The Asian Reporter, V32, #2 (February 7, 2022), page 7.

Baby orangutan being bottle-fed, which intrigues others

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ó An endangered Sumatran orangutan infant at New Orleansí zoo is being bottle-fed because its mother wasnít 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 last month.

The great apes with 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.

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 didnít pick or pull at the thin tube inserted through his nose.

As of January 20, he was eating well and weighed in at 1.98 kilograms (4.35 pounds), Audubon Nature Institute vice president and general curator Bob Lessnau said in a statement sent by Matherne.

Since January 8, six to seven hours of his 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 Jambiís 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 Childrenís Hospital of New Orleans have helped out, including a speech pathologist brought in to suggest ways to stimulate the babyís suckling, Lessnau said.

Menari is receiving a drug that can help maintain lactation, said Bob MacLean, the zooís senior veterinarian.

"We donít know if she will maintain or restart lactation if we have a successful reintroduction of the infant to her," he said.

But thereís hope in Menariís history: She also was hand-raised.

"Her mother, Feliz, did start lactating for Menari when she was finally successfully reintroduced to her and started suckling at around 8 months of age," MacLean said in a statement.

A video last month showed Dr. Daniel Cutler, the zooís associate veterinarian, gently pulling the babyís hands from hospital keeper Amy Jonesí fur vest, saying, "Heís ... probably not going to like it ó he wants to be nice and close and cuddle."

The baby clung to Cutlerís index fingers as it was raised into the air. Looking around, he pulled himself up until the top of his head was almost even with the fingers he gripped.

"Heís starting to say, ĎI donít like where Iím at ... put me back down.í Which is exactly what we want him to do," the veterinarian said.

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