The Saint Louis Zoo welcomed a rare baby Sumatran Orangutan on December 14, one of only two born in United States zoos in 2014.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Braccini
The baby, a female, was born to mother Merah, age 45, and father Cinta, age 10. Mother and baby are doing well, but they will remain behind the scenes for at least a month. The first 30 days of a baby Orangutan’s life are critical for developing a strong bond between mother and baby.
The baby hasn’t been named yet, and you can help choose the name! The zoo's Great Ape care team was asked to select a few potential female names, and you can vote for your favorite. The four name choices are: Marigold, Lucy, Cranberry and Ginger.
Now through 11:50 p.m. on January 16, you can cast your vote online in the Name the Baby poll.
Zoo staff will reveal the baby’s name at a baby shower in honor of Merah and the newborn on Monday, January 19.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Orangutan Species Survival Plan recommended the birth as part of its role in creating a sustainable managed population for this critically endangered species.
"Merah is an excellent and experienced mother," said Stephanie Braccini, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager, Great Apes. "She is carrying the infant, facilitating nursing, essentially doing everything right."
Prior to the birth, Merah's caretakers had conditioned her to allow voluntary ultrasound examinations by zoo veterinarians; these examinations allowed the team to proactively monitor the health and development of the baby during gestation. Merah and her baby continue to be monitored closely by a team of caretakers, veterinarians, and a nutritionist.
This is the fifth baby for Merah, the grandmother of two and the great-grandmother of one. She was born in the Netherlands and became a first-time mother in 1982.
Both Bornean Orangutans, endemic to Borneo, and Sumatran Orangutans, endemic to Sumatra, are highly endangered due to alarming habitat loss. A global demand for palm oil has resulted in widespread deforestation and subsequent drastic declines in the number of Orangutans that survive in the wild.
See more photos of the baby below.