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Woodland Park Zoo Farewell Orangutan, Melati

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: December 16, 2021 6:12 pm

Woodland Park Zoo Orangutan Melati Passes

Woodland Park Zoo is mourning the loss of orangutan Melati, who passed away while recovering from a surgical procedure

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo is mourning the loss of their oldest orangutan Melati. Melati was approaching her 50th birthday on December 17th 2021. Unfortunately she passed away while recovering from a surgical procedure.

Vets at the zoo were performing a surgery to remove a potentially cancerous growth on the uterus and left ovary. This was undertaken to alleviate pain and discomfort from the significant reproductive disease which was also threatening her life.

“Losing our animals is very difficult, they are family to us. Melati lived at Woodland Park Zoo for nearly five decades and was a role model mother to her two offspring who continue to thrive here,” said Martin Ramirez, mammal curator at Woodland Park Zoo.

“Melati will be remembered by her animal keepers as a very laid-back orangutan, and by our guests as an inquisitive individual. She would often look inside purses or bags that were close to the exhibit window and point to items that she wanted to see up close. One of her favorite enrichments was a soapy bucket and sponge, which she would use to ‘scrub’ her floors.”

Vets at Woodland Park Zoo have been treating Melati for uterine fibroids since 2018. A recheck during summer had shown that there was significant and concerning changes in her uterus and ovaries. A full CT scan revealed that large masses were present on the reproductive tract. A pressure-induced impact on the left ureter and kidney were the most concerning and posed a significant risk to her life if not addressed.

During a pre-procedure CT it was observed that her heat, lungs and lives appeared in good condition with no apparent metastasis.

Dr Tim Storms, Interim Director of Animal Health at Woodland Park Zoo explained some of the process and concerns, "Despite these encouraging findings that showed this was the optimal time to act, we were in a very tough position knowing that the planned procedure posed significant risk to Melati, given her age and the complexities of the surgery,” said Storms. “We made the complex decision to proceed with surgery to remove the possibly cancerous tissue and alleviate the pressure on surrounding structures, which was likely causing her pain and compromised mobility. Losing Melati is an unfortunate outcome we were up against.”

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In the days prior to the surgery the team had prepared for all eventualities. Melati's son Heran lives at Woodland Park Zoo and was a suitable donor if Melati had needed a blood transfusion. “It was critical to prepare for every possible scenario to manage the risks and ensure a successful surgery. A few days before Melati’s surgery, we anesthetized Heran for a comprehensive preventive health exam. After confirming his compatibility, we took the opportunity to collect two units of blood in the event Melati needed a blood transfusion,” added Storms.

 

Consulting gynecologic surgeons Dr. Emily Norland, Dr. Barbara Norquist, and Dr. Kathryn Pennington, in addition to radiologist Dr. Rob Liddell and cardiac sonographer Amy Owens, joined the zoo’s veterinary team for the surgery. “We’re so grateful for the medical team who gathered to help Melati and for the network of volunteer medical specialists who for decades has graciously donated their expertise, time, and resources to Woodland Park Zoo so we can provide top-notch health care for Melati and each of the 900 animals in our care,” said Storms.

A postmortem will be performed to understand any further factors which may have impacted Melati's health and contributed to her decline. These will be shared nationally to advance the understanding of orangutan health in captivity.

Melati had well exceeded the median lifespan for orangutans which is 28. In zoos it is now common for the species to live in to their 40s and 50s with advances in health care.

Learn more about Orangutans here – Orangutan Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Woodland Park Zoo on their website – Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo Orangutan Melati Passes

Woodland Park Zoo is mourning the loss of orangutan Melati, who passed away while recovering from a surgical procedure

Photo Credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

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