Critically Endangered Sumatran Orangutan at Audubon Zoo Expecting Twins
NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Audubon Zoo is happy to announce that its Sumatran orangutan Menari is expecting twins, the result of successful breeding with Jambi, the Zoo’s male orangutan. These will be Menari’s first offspring, and they are expected to arrive in December or January.
“We are very excited about this pregnancy,” said Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean. “Twinning is extremely rare in orangutans–there is only about a 1% chance of this happening.”
In 1985, Audubon Zoo’s orangutan named “Sarah” had twins named “Bon Temps” aka “Bonnie” and “Lagniappe” aka “Lana.” Both orangutans were hand-raised at Audubon Zoo. Lana is still alive at 36 years old, and she resides at AZA-accredited Greenville Zoo in South Carolina. Bonnie passed away in 2016 at Zoo Miami.
Though Menari will be a first-time mother, she was able to observe her mother, Feliz, giving birth and raising her half-sister Bulan in 2019 at Audubon Zoo. Most recently, Menari witnessed her adopted sister Reese give birth to Madu in February 2021. Menari has a special bond with half-sister Bulan, and guests can often spot them eating, sleeping, or foraging together in their habitat. This recent experience with infants has helped to prepare Menari for motherhood.
Menari’s care staff and the Zoo veterinary team are working diligently through daily training and enrichment sessions to prepare the 12-year-old orangutan for motherhood. With any first pregnancy, there is the possibility of issues with lactation, basic mothering skills, and dynamics within the orangutan group post-birth. As is standard procedure with all primate mothers, Menari’s care staff are 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.
Since joining Audubon Zoo’s orangutan group from Hannover Zoo in Germany in 2018, Jambi has sired Feliz’s infant, Bulan, in 2019 and Reese’s infant, Madu, in February 2021. With Jambi’s move from Germany to the U.S. and into the Sumatran orangutan population within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, he has added genetic diversity of the species. Maintaining a genetically diverse population in human care is important because 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.”
Peek-a-Boo at the Zoo, Audubon’s annual Halloween event taking place October 20-24, will only distribute candy made from sustainable palm oil. Audubon is committed to making positive impacts on the natural world.
The orangutan group at the Zoo serves as ambassadors for their species, teaching guests about the plight of Sumatran orangutans in the wild due to human-wildlife conflict. Audubon is committed to helping create experiences that spark action and empower visitors to impact the natural world for the better.