Contact: April Spurlock, (323) 644-4273The Los Angeles Zoo is saddened to announce that Minyak, our 31-year-old male orangutan, passed away yesterday. Minyak was undergoing a routine check-up to assess a chronic respiratory illness he has lived with since infancy called air sacculitis. The orangutan was under the care of both zoo veterinarians and his pulmonologist when he suffered from cardiac and respiratory arrest and could not be resuscitated despite valiant efforts.
It was Minyak’s poor health that brought him to the L.A. Zoo in December 2001 from his home at Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta, GA, a behavioral research facility. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan program, which makes recommendations for placement of endangered animals at accredited zoos to ensure genetic diversity, was searching for a positive environment for Minyak. When L.A. Zoo officials heard that Minyak was in need of a good place to live, they offered to care for the animal despite his ongoing medical condition. It was believed that with Southern California’s drier climate and the high caliber orangutan facility, Red Ape Rain Forest, the L.A. Zoo would be a perfect place for him to thrive.
After arriving at the L. A. Zoo, Minyak’s condition improved for some time, but his problems resurfaced causing his veterinarians and pulmonologist to search for a long-term cure. Utilizing the resources of numerous human surgeons and veterinarians, Minyak underwent a surgery in January 2003 to remove his air sac entirely, a groundbreaking operation that had never before been attempted on a mature ape. After the successful operation, Minyak and his keepers underwent a rigorous training program conducted jointly by the veterinary and keeper staff to ensure that Minyak was taking his medications. He was trained to reliably move from holding area to exhibit spaces and be “nebulized” by the keepers daily. Minyak’s success story also caught the interest of IQ Air, a Swiss company that specializes in air cleaning systems, and they generously donated and installed air purification equipment, meant especially for the orangutan.
Once Minyak recovered from the surgery, he was brought back into Red Ape Rain Forest where zookeepers crossed their fingers that the orangutan’s improved health would be conducive to breeding. Minyak went on to father two female baby orangutans. With all of his medical issues, Minyak’s zookeepers described him as a fighter, extremely cooperative, and very forgiving. He will be missed by everyone.
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $17 for adults and $12 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200.