A female orangutan brought to the Kansas City Zoo recently for breeding was found dead Thursday in an indoor holding area.
Zoo veterinarian Kirk Suedmeyer said the ape, a 24-year-old named Intan, probably died of heart failure, but pathology tests are pending.
“It was completely unexpected,” said Sean Putney, director of living collections at the zoo. “We’re pretty devastated by the loss, as is the case whenever we lose an animal.”
Orangutans are an endangered species. Their natural forest habitat in Borneo and Sumatra is being cleared for timber and for palm oil plantations.
Intan, who had never had offspring, had been brought to Kansas City in early November from the Los Angeles Zoo in hopes she would mate with Rufus. The pairing had been determined by the keepers of a Species Survival Plan for orangutans among North American zoos.
Suedmeyer said Intan had a medical exam before leaving Los Angeles and another one upon arrival in Kansas City.
“We didn’t find anything really significant,” Suedmeyer said.
Orangutans can live 50 years or more in captivity.
Intan had been introduced to Rufus last week and had spent time on and off with him in an indoor holding area.
“After the initial introduction and with some interference from Jill, the other female orangutan, it was determined to separate the pair from each other as well as the other orangutans,” according to a statement released by the zoo.
On Wednesday night, Intan and Rufus were placed together again, and they built their own separate nests and bedded down. When keepers arrived about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, both were in their nests and watching each other.
About 45 minutes later, an animal supervisor observed that Intan was unresponsive and called for the veterinary staff.
The Kansas City Zoo has two groupings of Borneo orangutans. One includes Rufus, Jill and 4-year-old female Kalijon. The other includes the male Berani, female T.K. and female Josie.