Louisville Zoo Mourns Passing of Beloved Orangutan Teak (Media Release)

Contact:  Kyle Shepherd
(O) 502-238-5331 (C) 502-744-5639  

Louisville Zoo Mourns Passing of Beloved Orangutan Teak

Today, the Louisville Zoo is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved animals: 36-year-old orangutan, Teak. A well-known and popular Zoo resident, the male orangutan was humanely euthanized following a multi-year battle with heart disease.

Teak was a Sumatran / Bornean hybrid orangutan that lived with a heart condition. His longevity is a testament to his resilience and the exceptional care he received.

Teak had been receiving ongoing treatment for heart disease. However, in the past few months his cardiac function had further deteriorated, compounded by a chronic respiratory illness known as Orangutan Respiratory Disease Syndrome (ORDS). Teak participated in daily nebulizer treatments to manage his illness.

Norton Healthcare Cardiologist Dr. Joe Lash collaborated closely with the Animal Care Team and with the Zoo’s veterinarians to oversee Teak’s heart care. Once diagnosed with heart disease, Teak was prescribed the same medications as those used in humans. Despite comprehensive care, monitoring and therapy, his heart disease progressed to cardiac failure over a 2.5-year period.

“End of life decisions are always difficult, especially with a charismatic animal like Teak,” said Senior Staff Veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, “but his welfare and quality of life was always our highest priority throughout his care.”

“We all mourn the loss of Teak to the Louisville Zoo and the community at large,” said Dr. Lash. “During these difficult times, I am always reminded and thankful for the skills and caring professionalism of the Zoo staff in supporting the complex medical care we at times need to employ to support the primate program.”

“Teak was undeniably a Louisville Zoo celebrity. His remarkable personality made him a wonderful ambassador for his species, inspiring visitors of all ages to care about wildlife. While our staff feels the loss of any animal resident, we recognize the passing of Teak resonates as profoundly with our wider community as well,” expressed Louisville Zoo Director Dan Maloney. “We are grateful for everyone who has visited and cared for Teak during his time in Louisville. He was a very special member of our Zoo family and will be greatly missed.”

Valuable information learned about Teak’s heart condition will be shared with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Great Ape Heart Project (GAHP). The GAHP is a team of zoo veterinarians, human and veterinary cardiologists, sonographers, and pathologists that compile critical cardiac data on all four great ape species. The GAHP team offers advice and support for zoos when experiencing such conditions with one of their apes.

Teak was born on November 21, 1987 at the Como Zoo in St. Paul Minnesota. He was known for his steady gaze and would often stand in the forefront of his habitat to engage with and observe the guests, and even seemed to take an interest in their footwear.

Teak and his half-sister, Amber, also a Sumatran Bornean hybrid orangutan, came to Louisville in 1996 from the Columbus Zoo. The two were also featured on the David Letterman show with Jack Hanna in 1988.

If guests are looking for a way to honor Teak and his life, the Zoo encourages everyone to support products that use sustainable palm oil to protect orangutan habitats. Wild places for orangutans are being disrupted by rainforest destruction due to palm oil harvesting. The Louisville Zoo recommends the “PalmOil Scan” app developed by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for identifying sustainable options. The app can be found in the Apple or Google Play stores.

The Louisville Zoo also participates in The Orangutan SAFE program which aims to protect and restore the wild orangutan population and their habitats through public engagement, funding and field work.

The Zoo honored Teak with a retrospective of his life. It can be found here: https://youtu.be/OLdEScwoRTk.

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The Louisville Zoo, the State Zoo of Kentucky, is the top, non-profit, paid attraction in the state. The Zoo is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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