New Orleans,
10:32 AM

Audubon Zoo Welcomes Male Orangutan and a Pair of Rescued Sea Lions

Jambi a 22-year-old Sumatran orangutan has joined Audubon Zoo’s three females Reese, Feliz and her daughter Menari, in hopes he will make his contribution to conserving this severely critically endangered species. He was chosen after consultation between the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) and the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan conservation breeding coordinators for Sumatran orangutans.

Jambi comes to Audubon from Hannover Zoo in Germany, his transition to New Orleans has gone very smooth. He has been enjoying his new habitat, especially sitting high on the platform and laying in the hammock enjoying the sunshine. He has acclimated well and enjoys the attention he is receiving from the resident females. Jambi can be identified by his large cheek pads and long hair.

“Jambi joining the Sumatran orangutan population within AZA will add to the genetic diversity of the species, and our hope is that as one of the highest genetically ranking males in North America, he will contribute to the Sumatran population to save this critically endangered species in the near future,” says Courtney Eparvier, Audubon Zoo Curator of Sea Lions.

Sumatran orangutans have been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN as threatened with extinction; there are fewer than 14,000 living in the wild and their numbers are declining, mainly due to the spread of palm oil plantations into their forest habitat.


Around the corner from Jambi, Audubon has welcomed a pair of two-year-old female sea lions who were recovering from injuries and health problems at the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCCLA) in San Pedro.

The newcomers spent time acclimating to their new home at Audubon Zoo sea lion habitat, they have settled in and have now joined the zoo’s family of four sea lions. Lilli, the 31-year-old matriarch who came to Audubon Zoo in 1990; and three 6-year-olds – females Zoey and Roux, and Huey, a male.

“The sea lion team has been working closely with these two amazing animals since they arrived to build trusting relationships with the care staff by using positive reinforcement training,’’ says Eparvier.

Audubon staff have gotten to know the new sea lions well and chose the perfect names to match their personalities and back stories – “Ayah,’’ which means “miracle’’ in Arabic and “Jolee,’’ beautiful in French.

“Having Ayah and Jolee join our sea lion family is an honor,’’ Eparvier says. “We couldn’t be happier to give them a home here at Audubon Zoo. They are already amazing ambassadors for their species and we hope their stories will inspire our guests to be more aware of how humans impact our fragile oceans and what we all can do to help."

In June 2017, Jolee was found stranded on a jetty off the El Segundo coast suffering from malnourishment, an injury in her left eye and flipper abrasions. In addition, she has cataracts in both eyes and is visually impaired. Jolee, who gets around by following Ayah, can see better when it’s cloudy and uses her vibrissae (the bristle-like hairs on a sea lion’s face) when needed.

The same month, Ayah was rescued off the Malibu coast. She, too, was malnourished and a later examination revealed that she had a small caliber bullet in the right side of her brain. While the injury resulted in the loss of the left eye, miraculously she suffered no neurological damage. While Ayah has some scarring on the right cornea, she can still see with that eye. Her recovery is remarkable.

“Not every facility wants to take in sea lions with visual issues, but Audubon literally saved their lives by accepting them. We are deeply grateful. For me, these two animals are all about resilience. New Orleans is a perfect home for them,” says Lauren Palmer, staff veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles.

The Marine Mammal Care Center has been rehabilitating sea lions and seals rescued from the California coastline for more than 25 years.

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.