Two great ape pregnancies progressing well
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Updates on Blaze the Sumatran orangutan and Lulu the western lowland gorilla
ATLANTA – November 13, 2012 – Two exciting pregnancies continue to progress as Blaze, a 16-year-old Sumatran orangutan, and Lulu, a 13-year-old western lowland gorilla, move closer to their 2013 due dates. The infants will be the first surviving offspring for both great apes.
Blaze, due in January, has been trained to participate in routine ultrasounds to allow the Animal Management and Veterinary Teams to monitor the growth of her fetus. She is also being trained for a number of maternal behaviors, including bringing a specified object forward on request; this is preparation for what will ultimately be regular requests to present her infant for visual checkups.
Lulu, due in spring, has a bit further to go in her gestation period, but she is also participating in positive reinforcement training to prepare for her new arrival. Lulu’s infant will be the sixth grandchild of the late Willie B. and will arrive in the 25th anniversary year of The Ford African Rain Forest.
While most human first-time mothers may not have the luxury of training prior to the arrival of a child, animal care professionals are leaving no stone unturned with either of the great ape moms-to-be. The training regimen for both Blaze and Lulu includes gradual desensitization to the sensations of parenthood, including the feeling of having their hair grasped by little hands. Birth management plans are in place should either new mother prove unable or unwilling to put these months of training in action when the infants arrive.
Both newborns represent critically endangered species. Sumatran orangutans face a particularly dire situation, with extinction possible in as few as 10 years without targeted conservation efforts. Zoo Atlanta is home to the nation’s largest zoological collections of gorillas and orangutans, now with two on the way, and Vice President of Collections Lori Perkins serves as the national Chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Orangutan Species Survival Plan.