New parasite kills Wisconsin zoo's star orangutan

CREATED Feb 27, 2014

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MILWAUKEE -- Scientists in Wisconsin say a newly discovered parasite is responsible for the death of a young orangutan at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

The 5-year-old orangutan named Mahal was one of the zoo's star attractions when he died in December 2012. Mahal gained fame as the subject of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series looking at his rejection by his biological mother and move from a Colorado zoo to Milwaukee to live with a surrogate mother.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers say Mahal was killed by a previously unknown type of tapeworm.

Epidemiologist Tony Goldberg said Thursday in a statement that it's not clear when or how Mahal was infected with the parasite. He also says by the time Mahal started showing symptoms, the infection had spread too far to save him.