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Critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan at Audubon Zoo expecting twins

2 years 8 months 2 days ago Thursday, October 21 2021 Oct 21, 2021 October 21, 2021 11:38 AM October 21, 2021 in News
Source: Audubon Nature Institute
Menari the orangutan

NEW ORLEANS - A very special member of Audubon Zoo's family is going to become a first-time mother.

The zoo announced Thursday that Menari, its Sumatran orangutan, is expecting twins after successfully breeding with Jambi, the Zoo’s male orangutan.

The news of Menari's pregnancy is especially exciting due to the fact that it's very rare for orangutans to carry twins.

Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean said, “Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans--there is only about a 1% chance of this happening.”  

A 2012 study of orangutans revealed that they appear to learn by social observation, quite similar to the way humans learn. 

This may come into play when Menari gives birth in December of January. 

She's never given birth herself, but she's watched both her mother, Feliz, and her adopted sister, Reese, give birth.

Additionally, after her mother gave birth to her half-sister Bulan in 2019, Menari developed a special bond with the infant. The two can often be seen eating, sleeping, or foraging together in their habitat.

These recent experiences related to the birthing process and dealing with infants may aid Menari as she takes on the task of motherhood. 

In addition to these helpful observations is the support from The Audubon Zoo. The 12-year-old orangutan will not be left to fend for herself throughout her pregnancy.

Menari’s care staff and the Zoo veterinary team are working diligently through daily training and enrichment sessions to prepare the primate for motherhood.

As is standard procedure with all primate mothers at Audubon Zoo, Menari’s care staff is working with her to ensure that she will be comfortable with the possibility of staff assisting her with feeding or caring for one or both infants if necessary. Menari, born at Audubon Zoo in 2009, was hand-raised.  

Sumatran orangutans have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered” and therefore threatened with extinction—there are fewer than 14,000 living in the wild and their numbers are declining, mainly because of human-wildlife conflict due to the spread of palm oil plantations into their forest habitat. 

“Around the world, those using sustainable practices in logging and agriculture are demonstrating that it is possible to conserve wildlife habitats while supporting the local economy,” said Audubon Zoo’s Curator of Primates Liz Wilson. “We strongly recommend purchasing products with sustainably grown palm oil.” 

The orangutan group at the Zoo acts as ambassadors for the species, teaching guests about the plight of Sumatran orangutans in the wild due to human-wildlife conflict.

Audubon says it is committed to helping create experiences that spark action and empower visitors to impact the natural world for the better. 

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