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Orangutan Mourned By Zoo Family

Media Alert: Wednesday, August 24, 2011


August 24, 2011

Jennifer Wilson                                      
Communications Manager

Powell, OH – Columbus Zoo and Aquarium staff and volunteers are mourning the loss of Willie, a male Sumatran orangutan; he was 20 years of age.
Willie battled chronic bronchiectasis for most of his life which is a disease defined by localized, irreversible dilation of part of the bronchial tree. As in humans with the same condition, Willie suffered from periodic infections and pneumonia. He was under veterinary care for many years and was even trained to take an inhaler. Willie underwent a bronchoscopy, lung washing and cultures yesterday after staff had noted his condition had gotten worse. He came out of the procedure and was in recovery but passed away overnight.
“Willie was an impressive animal who will be missed by many“ said Dale Schmidt, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. “He will live on in our memories.” 
Willie was born at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX on April 6, 1991 and came to the Columbus Zoo on a breeding recommendation on April 21, 2002.
There are now two Sumatran orangutans at the Columbus Zoo, Sally, who was paired to breed with Willie, and Tara. The Zoo is part of a cooperative breeding program for North American zoos and will work with them to identify a new male for the future.
Sumatran orangutans have coarse, long, reddish-brown hair and an arm span of up to 7.5 feet. Both males and females have long beards, however, male orangutans also develop cheek pads, which give appearance of facial disks. They have puffy checks and a hanging throat pouch that contains air sacks that will produce a groaning, bubbling call that can be heard at least a half mile away. The median life expectancy for a male orangutan is 21 years.
Since 1998 the Columbus Zoo has given over $115,000 to orangutan conservation. The Zoo is committed to protecting this endangered species and educating people about them. 
Zoo staff are requesting memories of Willie be posted on the Zoo’s Facebook page at
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days a year 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day.  General admission is $14.00 for adults, $9.00 for children ages 2 to 9 and $10.00 for seniors 60+.  Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating. For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit