Sumatran orangutan born by caesarean section at Zoo Atlanta
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Blaze and her first surviving infant are progressing normally
ATLANTA – January 10, 2013 – Blaze, a 16-year-old Sumatran orangutan, gave birth to a male infant on January 10, 2013. The newborn was delivered via Caesarean section with the consultation of an extensive pre-appointed medical team that comprised human obstetricians, neonatologists and veterinary anesthesiologists.
Blaze’s Caesarean section is one of only three performed on Sumatran orangutans in recent years. She is a small-bodied female, and her reproductive history includes a previous infant who did not survive the birth process, possibly due to causes related to Blaze’s small size. These factors prompted the Zoo Atlanta Animal Management and Veterinary Teams to compile a detailed birth management plan in preparation for several potential birth scenarios.
The procedure was performed by the Zoo Atlanta Veterinary Team in conjunction with an assemblage of human experts and consultant veterinarians. These included an obstetrical team (Brad Moore, MD, Bryan Jewell, MD and Deneen Moore, RN, of Haven Ob/Gyn); a veterinary anesthesia team (Ben Brainard, VMD, and Jane Quandt, DVM, of the University of Georgia Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine); and a neonatal team (Sandy Jun, MD, and Wendy Troyer, MD, of Neonatology Associates of Atlanta and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, along with respiratory therapist Willie Bailey, RT, and nurse Kum Kim, RN, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta). The infant had a neonatal cardiac exam performed by Roberta Boyd, RN, RDMS, RDCS, of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
"It was an exciting honor to be included in this team of specialists to help Blaze give birth successfully," said Sandy Jun, MD, of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "It was very rewarding to use our human neonatal skills to deliver this orangutan newborn safely, and we were glad to find that many of those skills translated seamlessly across species. It is not something we will forget."
Blaze appears to be recovering normally from the procedure, and her infant is currently in a nursery unit in the care of the Zoo Atlanta Veterinary Team and primate care professionals. The team hopes to reintroduce the infant to Blaze as soon as possible so that the new mother may begin bonding with her newborn.
“We’re delighted that Blaze’s infant has arrived safely, and that infant and mother seem to be doing well,” said Raymond King, President and CEO. “We’re doubly grateful for the support and participation of such a wide range of outside medical experts, all coming together with our team to follow an extremely well-executed plan with a superb level of professionalism and dedication.”
Blaze, who has been trained to participate in voluntary ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy, has also benefited from additional training to encourage appropriate maternal care and cooperation with veterinarians and animal care staff. She has been under round-the-clock observation since her birth window began on January 2.
The infant’s father, 33-year-old Benny, has been temporarily separated from Blaze but will be reunited with her and his new offspring soon. Zoo Atlanta is home to the nation’s largest zoological collection of orangutans, now with 14 individuals.
Not only is Blaze’s baby the first high-profile Zoo birth of 2013, but the delivery also sends a crucial message of hope for a critically endangered species. Now believed to number fewer than 7,000 in the wild, Sumatran orangutan populations have declined drastically in recent years as a result of habitat conversion to palm oil plantations, over-harvesting of timber, and human encroachment. Without targeted conservation efforts, experts predict that the species could be extinct in the wild within 10 years.
Stay tuned for updates on Blaze and her infant.