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Zoo investigating death of male orangutan

Juara at the St. Louis Zoo in April 2009
(photo by Rachel Lippmann)
Juara at the St. Louis Zoo in April 2009

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The St. Louis Zoo is investigating the death of a 25-year-old male orangutan.

Juara, who was an unusually large orangutan at 375 pounds, died Aug. 3rd after a physical examination, said Zoo vice president Eric Miller. Though an exact cause won't be known until a necropsy is complete, Miller said Juara likely suffered respiratory failure, a complication of the anesthesia that is routinely given to animals like orangutans to make exams safer for veterinarians.

"It's a protocol of anesthetic drugs that we've used before," Miller said. And so just like unfortunately it happens sometimes in people, you can have an adverse reaction of different varieties."

Juara is the fifth animal to die at the Zoo in 18 months. In December, an infant chimpanzee died from an umbilical chord infection, an event that was not widely known. Veterinarians in March 2009 had to euthanize a polar bear after discovering a tumor on her liver. Later that month, federal officials investigated the death of a gorilla who got tangled in a rope in his cage. And in February 2009, a popular hairless chimpanzee named Cinder died of an enlarged heart.

Federal investigators did not find any pattern of wrongdoing, Miller said.

"Nobody looks harder than we do to see if there's anything that's link. A little bit, it's like saying last year, if Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died in the same week there's a pattern in Hollywood. These are unrelated," he said.

The Zoo has informed federal regulators about Juara's death, Miller said, and welcomed any investigation the government might choose to launch.