Meet 'Roux': New Orleans zoo officially names cute baby orangutan

A New Orleans zoo has officially named its baby Sumatran orangutan: "Roux."

The infant was born on Christmas Eve 2021 at the Audubon Zoo and has been getting round-the-clock care since a few days after his birth because Menari, a first-time mother, wasn’t producing enough milk. 

The Audubon Zoo said the name Roux paid homage to New Orleans and is a French term for "a reddish-brown like the color of an orangutan's fur and the thickening base used to make gumbo."

The zoo's orangutan care team narrowed their selection of names to three — Rudy, Roux and Maymuun — and asked the public to vote on the winner.

"We are grateful to the community for helping us pick a name and extremely overwhelmed by the nearly 10K total votes that were cast," Audubon Zoo’s Curator of Primates Liz Wilson said in a statement. "Our team feels that Roux perfectly fits the newest member of our orangutan family and loves that it pays homage to his New Orleans roots." 

The great apes with long red hair are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Threats to the Sumatran species include hunting and the destruction of the forests and peat swamps of the Indonesian island where they spend nearly all their time in trees.

Twelve-year-old Menari gave birth to Roux on Dec. 24, and a twin brother was stillborn. Days later, the baby was showing signs of weakness and lack of nursing. Veterinarians examined Menari and discovered the lactation problem.

Since then the infant has had round-the-clock care from zoo staffers wearing furry vests that the baby can cling to. He was being bottle-fed and tube-fed as well, but the tube was removed on Jan. 13. Until the feeding tube was removed, their duties included making sure he didn’t pick or pull at the thin tube inserted through his nose.

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Roux, a baby Sumatran orangutan, was born on Dec. 24, 2021. (Provided photo / Audubon Nature Institue)

"Roux continues to gain weight and has begun daily visual introductions with the rest of the orangutan group at the Zoo," the staff said in a Feb. 18 update. "His care team is also giving him more exercise opportunities to encourage him to build up stamina and grip strength."

Wilson participated in a Facebook Live video that same day and noted how Roux was "drinking every single bottle" and paying more attention to the zoo’s orangutan family.

Menari, who visits with the infant each day, has also received daily training for maternal behaviors including nursing and how to act if staffers need to continue bottle-feeding the baby after they’re officially reunited. 

Unlike training for gorillas, it does not use a doll, zoo spokesperson Annie Matherne said.

The zoo said it was still determining a timeframe for reintroducing him to his mother, "based on his continued improvements." It added that his care team would continue to work closely with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Orangutan Species Survival Plan advisors and Children's Hospital New Orleans on the next steps for the infant.

The baby's two half-sisters are named Bulan, which means moon, and Madu, which means honey. All three were sired by Jambi, who came in 2018 from the zoo in Hannover, Germany.

"The family does get to see him on a daily basis," the zoo staff added, noting how Bulan and Madu were "very intrigued" by their new sibling.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.