Zoo keepers keep close watch over baby orangutans

FRESNO, Calif.

The first came on Halloween and the second arrived just six days ago. Friday Action News was invited to pay a first visit to both moms and their little babies.

Labu was the first to arrive on Halloween some 7 weeks ago. He needed to bottle fed but not anymore.

Mom, Sara, is now producing plenty of nourishment for her little boy.

"This is her first time she's been able to raise an infant, nurse it and raise and take it all through its growing up period," Chaffee Zoo Primate Keeper Lynn Meyers said.

The zoo's second Orang mom, Saibo, has had no trouble with her first baby. A little girl Ndari. Both moms patiently ignored our visit with them.

For eight weeks seven zoo keepers have been working rotating 12 hour shifts around the clock and sleeping on a cot in a vacant orangutan 'bedroom'.

They want to insure the health and safety of first one and now two endangered babies.

Keeper Shane Spears considers it an rare opportunity. "It's pretty amazing. It's kind of a one of those once in a lifetime, once in a career opportunities to be able to care for a baby orangutan, to hold it, take care of it, be part of its life."

The Chaffee Zoo participates in the 'Species Survival Plan'. Its purpose is to increase a healthy and diverse captive wild animal population and that includes endangered orangutans of Indonesia.

The genes of these little ones will one day contribute to other healthy orangutans.

"I have never in my life gotten better Christmas presents."

These rare baby apes won't join their father out in the public exhibit for a quite while.

When they do, their moms aren't likely to put them down. Orangutans carry their offspring everywhere for five full months.

In the meantime babies and moms will get their outdoor time in a safe, behind-the-scenes open air enclosure. But come spring and warmer weather they'll make their debut.

"A wonderful Christmas gift for the staff and all the visitors who will come see them. It's gonna be a fun year watching these babies grow up."

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