In Memory of Daniel

It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that we announce that we lost our 15-year-old male Bornean orangutan, Daniel over the weekend.  As most of you know, he’s had a chronic history of respiratory illness that likely resulted in his severe, fibrosing pneumonia. Over the past week, his symptoms had gotten worse, and he was immobilized for medical examination and treatment. He went into respiratory arrest and could not be revived.

Initial pathology exam showed severe chronic fibrosing pneumonia in both lungs. Respiratory issues are the most common cause of death in orangutans in managed settings.  

Daniel was born on April 11, 2006, at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and came to Phoenix in late 2013 as a scrawny, unfledged pre-teen, to be a companion for our younger female, Kasih.

Dan went through a lot in his 15 years. He was a real trooper. Daniel had chronic air sacculitis and endured multiple surgeries, including a marsupialization, in order to manage it.  After suffering the sudden loss of his companion, Kasih, in 2017 keepers spent a lot of socializing time with him and really got to know his silly quirks. Daniel was somewhere between a goofy kid and a grown, mature male. You knew you were in for a good day when Dan spent his breakfast time, spinning in circles while eating his favorite snacks. He never sat for a meal without making a small nest to sit in. As part of his medical treatment, Daniel was trained to accept nebulizer treatments, and he accepted them easily – sometimes while hanging upside down. Daniel was always up for a training session, and he picked up new behaviors almost immediately. Dan was very clear about when it was time to come inside at the end of the day, meeting you with his signature authoritative “glare” if you weren’t moving fast enough.

When Rayma came to Phoenix in April 2019, she and Dan took to each other right away. At their first meeting, Rayma took Daniel’s hand and led him through the night house. They were inseparable ever since. Literally. We couldn’t separate them. Dan showed Rayma the training ropes, and the two were always ready to get into some minor trouble together. Always together. They ate well together, shared the same room (though always separate nests), and investigated all new enrichment as a pair.

For those who’ve known Dan since he arrived here as a seven-year-old youngster, he was curious, a little destructive with our viewing windows, and an all-around pleasure to work with. In 2018, Daniel made national news with his ground-breaking sinus surgery. He had been dealing with a sinus infection that left him with labored breathing, coughing, frequent mucous production and a distended air sac. A team consisting of Dr. Jeff Steurer of the Southwest Veterinary Surgical Service, veterinarians from the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation and Dr. David Simms M.D., an ear, nose, and throat surgeon of Arizona Otolaryngology Consultants worked together to perform an endoscopic surgical procedure that made a significant impact on Daniel’s health at the time. 

This has been a significant blow to the Primate team who, along with our veterinary staff, have provided specialized care for Daniel’s allergies and sinus issues for the past few years.  The building will not be the same without breakfast antics, long calls down the shifting shaft, and afternoon raspberry blowing. Staff are monitoring Rayma and ensuring she has extra attention during this time and we will be discussing in the near future with the Orangutan SSP about future plans for her and our group. 

We appreciate everyone’s support. Daniel will be so sorely missed.