Image: © Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta Mourn the Passing of Sumatran Orangutan Biji


Cale Russell


August 11, 2023 2:47 pm


Atlanta, Georgia, The United States

Zoo Atlanta are mourning the passing of their Sumatran orangutan, Biji, aged 52. Biji was a founding member of the great ape family at Zoo Atlanta. In recent times she had been undergoing treatment by the Veterinary and Animal Care Teams for advancing kidney failure. As her condition deteriorated over recent weeks they made the difficult decision to humanely euthanise her on August 10, 2023.

Biji had lived to an extraordinary age for her species which is considered geriatric at 40 years old. Dedicated healthcare by the zoo's team has assisted her with reaching this remarkable age.

By working alongside Biji keepers had been able to voluntarily draw blood from Biji which allowed vets to determine her condition 9 years ago. This allowed them to manage the condition in the years since.

“Biji’s early diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of kidney disease greatly increased our knowledge of this condition in orangutans, and what we learned has helped other orangutans in human care throughout the country,” said Sam Rivera, DVM, Vice President of Animal Health.


“Biji was the ultimate incarnation of the intellect, resourcefulness, and adaptability of orangutans. Beneath that surface, she was a huge personality with a goofy side she only showed to those who knew her best,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Biji has been an inspiration to decades of Zoo visitors, and it has been our privilege and honor to have served as her home for more than 30 years. She has helped all of us, and our visitors, better understand the incredible nature of these amazing apes.”

Zoo Atlanta provided a home for Biji in 1988 when she was moved from Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center. She was considered to be strongly independent and demonstrated to keepers that she did not enjoy interacting with other orangutans, not uncommon for this solitary species.

The zoo will undertake a necropsy (animal autopsy) through their partnership with the University of Georgia Zoo and Exotic Animal Pathology Service in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Currently one of the largest populations of orangutans in North America live at Zoo Atlanta. Nine individuals representing both the Sumatran and Bornean orangutan are found at the zoo.

Orangutans are threatened in their native Asia by habitat loss primarily driven by deforestation to create land for the growth of palm oil. This species could face extinction as soon as the next decade if the current threats continue. The zoo encourage the use of of only sustainable palm oil. They are one of the few zoos  to pursue and attain membership in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil™ (RSPO).

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sumatran orangutan

More on the Sumatran Orangutan!

Meet the 'man of the forest,' the Sumatran orangutan with our fact file for this species.

About the Author

Cale Russell

Cale has operated The Animal Facts since 2012. During this time he has volunteered and worked across a range of Australian Wildlife Parks something he continues to today. He holds a certificate in Animal Care and Husbandry.

Our Favourite Sumatran Orangutan Fact!

The orangutan is found in Asia making it the only, of the four, non-human great apes which can not be found in Africa.

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