Kali Jon, Baby Orangutan
Kansas City Zoo
Kansas City, MO
On April 24 , 2009, a female orangutan by the name of T.K. delivered a female baby. After several hours trying to get T.K. to accept her baby and feed her baby she was given an anesthetic and her colostrum was expressed and fed to the baby. Later attempts to get T.K. and the baby united were also unsuccessful so it was decided to take the baby away and hand raise her.
The keepers worked around the clock for several days caring for the baby. They realized they could not keep up the schedule on their own so several of the docents were asked to assist in raising the baby.
What a thrill for each of us! All of the selected docents had to get a T.B. skin test and attend a class stressing the steps being taken at that time in the care of the baby.
Each time we worked we washed our hands and put on a furry vest before holding the baby. She was fed about every three hours, similiac with iron, she never wore a diaper (so we often carried our work home with us), we did have a rocking chair to rock her when asleep and we had an exercise schedule.
Baby orangutans are extremely strong and usually hold on to their mother at all times so she was to hold on to our furry vest and we were not suppose to hold her. As a registered nurse and a mother, I had a hard time at first because my natural instinct was to not only hold her but also support her neck.
However, in a few days I realized her strength was tremendous. She got a hold of my hair and I thought I would loose a large piece of hair before I got her little fingers unglued from my hair.
Our shifts were either four to five hours in the morning and afternoon or eight hours. We worked from 7 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. The zoo keepers covered the rest of the day.
By the second month, the baby was pulling up and acted like she was trying to walk. However, orangutans have funny short little legs so it actually took her another month before she would walk holding on to something. Orangutans almost always hold on to something throughout their life so the baby was just doing what orangutans do.
My presentation will outline her growth during the five months. Her change in size, strength, awareness, ability and learning to drink her bottle through a mesh, as well as Jill’s responses.
It will also demonstrate the love we all felt for a little baby orangutan who did not have a loving mother but a whole staff who loved her. This is a story of Kali Jon’s life as an orphan and a true love story by many persons involved in her life.
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