When Cindy Cossaboon saw her loved one suffering from pregnancy-induced morning sickness, she stepped in with some motherly advice and offered up the tea she drank when she was feeling unwell during her own pregnancy.
It just so happened that the recipient of Cossaboon’s wisdom was an orangutan.
Cossaboon, an animal care specialist at the Denver Zoo who oversees the orangutans, knew from experience what was ailing pregnant orangutan Eirina when the animal began losing her playful spirit and turning away from food she normally enjoyed.
Eirina started losing patience with a 5-year-old orangutan who she normally likes spending time with, Cossaboon said, and was generally more grumpy.
“I felt bad for her,” Cossaboon said. “I had really bad morning sickness when I was pregnant, so I just know how that feels.”
Cossaboon remembered a tea from the grocery store — Traditional Medicinals’ Organic Pregnancy Tea — that helped her feel better when she was with child and down for the count. She consulted with zoo management, veterinarians and nutritionists to determine whether first-time mother Eirina could have the tea.
When they gave the OK, Cossaboon warmed up the tea, added a little honey and gave the drink to Eirina in a red cup with a straw — Eirina loves to drink from a straw, she said.
After her morning tea, Eirina is more active and seems to feel better throughout the day, Cossaboon said.
Now, Eirina drinks her tea every morning.
“As soon as she sees her little cup coming, she sits up and comes over and drinks,” Cossaboon said.
Female orangutans have labial swelling when they are pregnant, which tipped off Eirina’s keepers. Orangutans have 35-week gestation periods — humans have 40 — and Eirina is close to her due date, Cossaboon said.
Orangutan pregnancy and human pregnancy are pretty similar Cossaboon said. Eirina has a birth plan and a team of obstetricians and neonatologists on deck in case there are any issues.
In the U.S., Cossaboon said there have been several orangutan C-sections.
“The OBs that have performed the C-sections say that other than the skin being more tough to cut through, everything else looks very much the same,” Cossaboon said of an orangutan C-section compared to a human one.
Toward the end of their pregnancy, the animals mostly want to lay around and aren’t very hungry, Cossaboon said. At the end of her pregnancy, Eirina will dilate like a human does.
When the babies are born, Cossaboon said orangutans, like humans, have different parenting styles, as well. Some are more like helicopter parents who don’t let their little ones roam without them while others are more relaxed.
“Pregnancy is so hard no matter who you are,” Cossaboon said. “We spoil her rotten because it’s hard work. She doesn’t want to eat something? We’ll bring her something else. She needs some more blankets? We’ll get her some more blankets. We’re really excited for the new baby to get here.”