Pneumonia suspected in orangutan's death

CREATED Dec 29, 2012

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  • Mahal, shown playing in his enclosure at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 2008, died unexpectedly Saturday morning. Image by Journal Sentinel file photo

MILWAUKEE - Hearts are heavy at the Milwaukee County Zoo after the death of a young orangutan Saturday who lived here with his foster family.

Mahal was born in Colorado Springs to an orangutan mother who rejected him, but once he came to Milwaukee, the then nine-month-old orangutan found a surrogate mother who did accept him.

The red-haired great ape was flown to Milwaukee by private jet in 2008. 

He was just five years old and zoo veterinarians believe he died from pneumonia.

He was found dead in his exhibit at 8:30am Saturday.

A necropsy will be performed to determine if that is indeed the cause of death.

Zoo officials say Mahal was popular with zoo visitors.

The zoo plans to devise a way for the public to remember him.