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County Executive's Office

Henry Vilas Zoo Mourns Loss of BB the Orangutan

November 10, 2011
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
County Executive


The Henry Vilas Zoo family is mourning the passing of BB the Orangutan, a long-time favorite of staff and visitors, who passed away peacefully in her sleep this week.  A preliminary examination points to a cause of death due to advanced age,  respiratory infection, and possible underlying cardiac disease. 


At 40, BB was considered geriatric for an orangutan, and was under close care from the zoo veterinarian, UW veterinary staff and zoo staff.  Zoo staff described BB as a wonderful and engaging animal.  A sociable ape, she often would look at visitors sideways as if assessing every move they made.


After every animal death at Henry Vilas Zoo, a necropsy is performed according to Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) standards. The University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine Pathologists performed a necropsy on BB, the final results of which will provide the zoo with valuable information on animal physiology. 


“This is a difficult time for the staff who cared for BB. We all enjoyed working and interacting with her,” said Ronda Schwetz, Interim Zoo Director.  “BB has been at the Henry Vilas Zoo for many years and had delighted guests with her interactions. We will all miss her greatly. We hope that visitors will continue to come and see our other orangutans as often as they visited BB.”


Schwetz noted that BB was mother to Kawan, one of two orangutans remaining on display at the zoo.  Kawan was recently paired with Datu, a male transferred from Senaca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York as a part of the Henry Vilas Zoo’s partnership to help preserve the world’s Orangutan population.  Zoo staff report that since the introduction, the pair has bonded very well.

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