First-time mom Reese the orangutan and her newborn are said to be doing well following the baby's birth at the Audubon Zoo.

orangutan with her baby
Credit: Courtesy of Audubon Nature Institute on Twitter

The Audubon Zoo of New Orleans is having a surprise baby shower.

Early on Sunday, a Sumatran orangutan named Reese gave birth to her first child. Much of the zoo's staff arrived at the facility on Sunday not expecting to find 12-year-old Reese with her baby. The Audobon Zoo knew the first-time mom was pregnant, but, because of "early signs and physical changes," placed the primate's birth window between April and May, according to a release from the zoo.

"We received the best kind of surprise this morning," Liz Wilson, the Audubon Zoo's curator of primates, said in a statement. "It just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world currently, life is carrying on as normal for our orangutans. It's really uplifting to see."  

The Audubon Zoo shared that both Reese and her firstborn are doing well since the latter's arrival. The mother and child are being kept behind the scenes at the zoo to give them time to bond.

According to the zoo, the first 48 hours of life are when orangutan babies learn to nurse, so keepers are closely watching Reese and her baby to make sure the newborn latches on and gets the nutrients it needs.

The Audubon Zoo is confident that Reese is prepared for parenthood. After mating with Jambi—the Audubon Zoo's male orangutan—and getting pregnant, Reese started daily training and enrichment sessions to help her master being a mom. She also watched her mother and Feliz, the Audubon Zoo's orangutan matriarch, give birth and raise newborns, so she has successful mentors to emulate.

"Thus far, Reese is showing very positive signs of her maternal instincts kicking in," said the zoo's senior veterinarian, Bob MacLean. "She is holding the infant close and tending to it well. We are continuing to monitor for signs of nursing and lactation."  

The arrival of this new orangutan, whose sex has yet to be determined, will help keep the world's captive Sumatran orangutan population genetically diverse, which is important, the zoo notes in their release, "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 due to human-wildlife contact due to the spread of palm oil plantations into their forest habitat."

To help protect orangutans like Reese, her child, and their wild counterparts, animal lovers can closely examine what products they are using in their homes.

"To help orangutans in the wild, we recommend purchasing products with sustainably grown palm oil," Wilson said. "Around the world, those using sustainable practices in logging and agriculture are demonstrating that it is possible to conserve wildlife habitat while supporting the local economy." 

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