Zoo Welcomes Baby Orangutan

Aug. 24, 2018 - On Wednesday, August 22, the Greenville Zoo staff physically introduced Lana and her baby for the first time since the baby was born on August 7. Since the introduction, the staff has been monitoring the pair throughout the day and overnight, noting when and how long the baby nurses, Lana’s behavior, the baby’s behavior and anything else that occurs to ensure that Lana is taking appropriate care of the infant.

Following the baby’s birth, it was important to make sure that Lana’s sutures stayed intact, that she did not develop any infections and that she recovered mentally from the stress of the immobilization, anesthesia and surgery before she was tasked with caring for the baby. During this two-week period, the baby was cared for and monitored by multiple zoo staff members as well as local physicians who participated in her birth or had been part of the Birth Management Team. At the beginning of this week, the team met and decided that Lana was healthy and ready to begin caring for her infant.

On Wednesday, keepers came in early to take care of the animals in the Asia area so that time could be focused on the introduction. Around 8:30 a.m., Jennifer Stahl, the lead Asia keeper, fed the baby one last large bottle of formula before wrapping her in a blanket and taking her to the orangutan building. At 8:40 a.m., Jennifer laid the baby, who was still in the blanket, on top of the wood wool-covered floor in the den next to Lana’s den and walked away. When Lana was given access to the den, she cautiously approached the baby and, curious, removed the baby from the blanket. Lana was gentle with the baby and while she would become nervous when the baby vocalized, sometimes moving away, she never went far and always returned. The baby first nursed from Lana at 2 p.m., which was a significant milestone for mother and baby and affirming for the zoo staff.  

The staff will continue to monitor them during the day and via cameras during the night, but at this point, the team has a high level of confidence in Lana and is comfortable with the situation.  

Aug. 7, 2018 - Greenville Zoo director Jeff Bullock announced this afternoon that just before 6 a.m. this morning, doctors delivered a healthy, 2.9-pound female baby orangutan via C-section. Mother Lana is doing well and has been monitored throughout the day and provided with medication to help manage the pain from the surgery as she comes out of the anesthesia. Her baby is also doing well and a birth management team of seven staff members will care for the newborn until Lana has recovered from her surgery and the two can be safely introduced.

According to Bullock, Lana began showing signs of labor last night and a team of zoo staff and medical professionals gathered at the zoo just before 10 p.m. Lana’s regular caregivers proceeded to the orangutan den while the zoo’s veterinarian, veterinary technician, general curator and director, as well as a local OB-GYN and a neonatologist, monitored Lana via closed-circuit camera from a conference room. For a while, her contractions became more intense and the intervals shorter; however, as the night went on, Lana seemed to tire and the frequency of contractions began to decrease.

Around 1:30 a.m., the team discussed the changes in her labor and potential issues and contacted the Orangutan SSP Veterinary Advisor to share their observations and solicit his opinion. Following the call, the team made the decision to intervene. They called the anesthesiologist who was standing by and once Lana was immobilized, the doctors were taken to the orangutan den, where the OB-GYN performed an ultrasound and determined that the baby was doing well and had a good heartbeat. The anesthesiologist intubated Lana so she could be managed more safely with gas rather than drugs and around 4:30 a.m., Lana was transported to a local veterinary hospital for a C-section.

Shortly after the birth, once the neonatologist cleaned and examined the newborn, zoo staff transported her to the nursery space that was constructed at the zoo in the event it was needed. Just after 8 a.m., zoo staff transported Lana back to her den at the zoo, where she has been recovering from the anesthesia. Access to the baby will be strictly limited to the seven-member team, who will work in shifts around the clock, caring for and feeding the baby until Lana is well enough to do so.

Details about Lana’s recovery and the baby’s progress will be shared in the coming days and additional pictures will be posted and shared.