Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oldest captive orangutan dies at 44

The oldest captive orangutan in the United States has died at age 44, Oklahoma City Zoo officials say.

Les Tunku, a male Sumatran orangutan, died from heart and kidney failure, Gary West, the zoo's veterinarian services director, told The Oklahoman newspaper.

He had been put under anesthesia so he could be examined after being lethargic and having difficulty breathing, West said. The stress of the procedure was too much for his heart, and the ape went into cardiac arrest Tuesday.

All the apes are sedated for medical exams, West said.

Most orangutans in a zoo environment live about 40 years, the newspaper said. Wild orangutans usually live for 35 to 40 years. Tabo, the zoo's female orangutan, is 39 years old and healthy, West said.

"It's a sad day for all of us here," West said. "He was a really neat animal."

If the remains are not used for scientific purposes, the orangutan will be buried, a zoo spokeswoman said, adding she did not know if the zoo would get another orangutan.

Les arrived at the zoo in 1962, the year he was born. He fathered nine children, including five with Tabo.

Story here.

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