5-year-old orangutan unexpectedly dies at Milwaukee County Zoo

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Mahal (right)

MILWAUKEE — A Bornean orangutan named Mahal died unexpectedly at the Milwaukee County Zoo on Saturday morning, December 29th.

Mahal died at about 8:30 a.m. in his indoor exhibit. The Zoo’s veterinary personnel believe the cause of death was pneumonia, as orangutans are susceptible to this serious respiratory condition, just as humans. Mahal was 5 years old.

Mahal was showing signs of slight illness on Thursday, and veterinarians and keepers attempted to administer medication and food to Mahal.

A complete animal autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death. 

Mahal arrived at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2008 from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, to be paired with MJ, the Zoo’s female orangutan. Zoo officials say it was the hope MJ would serve as a surrogate mother to Mahal. They say it didn’t take long before the two bonded, and soon displayed a strong and stable mother/son relationship.

In the coming days, the Zoo will determine a special way for the public to commemorate Mahal, as he was a hugely popular animal with the public, and even became the subject of his own Facebook page.