HOUSTON – A team of trained and experienced caregivers is hand-rearing a baby Bornean orangutan at the Houston Zoo.
The humans stepped in when the female orangutan’s mother failed to take care of the baby after she was born.
"We were disappointed that the baby’s mother, Kelly, did not raise her baby as we had hoped," said Houston Zoo Curator of Primates and Carnivores Hollie Colahan. "However, we are very happy that Kelly and the baby are healthy. And we’re also very fortunate that we have a staff that is very experienced and accomplished in hand rearing newborns and reintroducing them to their mothers or to surrogate mothers."
The as-yet-unnamed orangutan was born at the Houston Zoo on Wednesday, March 2. She was the third orangutan born there in the past 14 years.
Zookeepers said Kelly initially indicated that she would nurse the baby, but after 12 hours, she abandoned her.
"Based on Kelly’s past behavior with her son Solaris, we had every reason to believe she would accept and raise the baby," said Colahan. "Unfortunately, Kelly abandoned the infant later in the day and refused repeated attempts to return the baby to her."
Caregivers said they plan to reintroduce the baby to Kelly or a surrogate mother as soon as possible.
Baby orangutans spend the first year of their lives clinging to their mothers, which means the Houston Zoo’s baby is clinging to her human caregivers 24 hours a day at the Wortham World of Primates night house.
Right now, she eats human baby formula, but she will transition to other foods as she grows and matures.
Before that happens, though, she needs a name. The zoo took suggestions from the public from April 5-10, and the baby's caretakers selected five names from those suggestions that best fit her personality.
The five potential names are: Maya, Kira, Nima, Celestia and Aurora.
Those five names will be put to an online vote from April 11-18.