Como Zoo's orangutan has a name: Jaya

  • Article by: BEN GOESSLING , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 18, 2008 - 11:21 PM

Since his arrival by C-section on Dec. 13, the Como Zoo's baby orangutan has acquired all sorts of monikers from zookeepers, with "Sugar Lips" being one of the more colorful.

Now, his handlers can finally ditch all the nicknames. The baby's name is Jaya.

Announced Monday afternoon to applause in the St. Paul zoo's primate building, Jaya emerged as the winner of a four-week contest that allowed members of the public to select the orangutan's name by donating money toward their favorite choice.

Jaya (pronounced J'-ya) means "celebration" or "victorious" in Indonesian, and beat out Pandu, which means leader or scout, and Bejo, which means lucky.

Jaya received 32,564 votes, or $325.64 (with each penny counting as a vote); the overall contest generated $767.52 for the Como Zoo and Conservatory Society's contribution to the orangutan training program at the zoo.

"It feels very fitting," lead orangutan trainer Megan Elder said.

"It reflects not only the success of the baby boy, but the success of the mother," a 20-year-old Sumatran orangutan named Markisa.

Elder -- who gave the baby his amorous nickname -- said she was quietly rooting for Jaya to be the choice.

It was nominated by the zoo's primate staff after looking through a book of Indonesian names; the other choices came from the zoo's campus staff and the conservation society.

To her, the name summed up the baby's arduous arrival into the world.

The C-section was just the ninth such surgery worldwide among 1,600 births by captive orangutans. Markisa had delivered a stillborn baby in 2005, and zoo staff developed a birth plan with veterinarians and obstetrician-gynecologists for humans.

On Monday, the Sumunar Youth Gamelan Ensemble provided Indonesian music as a backdrop while mother and child dutifully sat at the edge of their holding area as flashbulbs popped.

"It reflects the cultural significance of these animals," Elder said. "The name is meant to highlight him as an ambassador, and we'll use Jaya the best we know how."

Ben Goessling • 651-298-1546

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