The Current State of Orangutan Health in North America and the Orangutan SSP’s Plans for Moving Forward
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2012
Joseph A. Smith1, DVM; Nancy P. Lung2, VMD, MS; Lori A. Perkins3
1Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fort Wayne, IN, USA; 2Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, TX, USA; 3Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA


A formal review of the medical conditions affecting captive orangutan species (Pongo pygmaeus and P. abelii) has not been performed since 1990.1 The Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) identified the need to update the knowledge on the current state of orangutan health in North America to determine what medical issues are of greatest concern and to help decide where resources should be directed for the future. A survey was completed by 45 of the 55 (81.8%) institutions in North America that house orangutans and are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The survey results indicated that the top three health problems that concern the clinical veterinarians are (1) respiratory infections, (2) heart disease, and (3) obesity. The survey also identified specifics on each institution’s preventative health care plans, medical training, use of consultants, and diagnoses of major diseases. To better understand the health conditions affecting orangutans, the SSP conducted an orangutan health workshop May 18–20, 2012, at the Fort Worth Zoo where professionals from veterinary, human medical, and other specialties collaborated to identify prioritized goals for addressing the diseases of highest concern.


The authors thank Kim Westbrook for assistance with survey compliance.

Literature Cited

1.  Wells SK, Sargent EL, Andrews ME, Anderson DE. Medical Management of the Orangutan. The Audubon Institute. New Orleans, LA: 1990.


Speaker Information
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Joseph A. Smith, DVM
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
Fort Wayne, IN, USA

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