Ben the orangutan | Jim Schulz/CZS

On the heels of the good news last week that it had acquired a new silverback for its western lowland gorilla group, Brookfield Zoo on Feb. 13 shared the sad news that its 44-year-old Bornean orangutan, Ben, was euthanized due to his deteriorating health characterized by “severe arthritis and spinal degeneration.”

At 44 years old, Ben was a geriatric orangutan who had experienced a series of health issues in recent years as he aged. In 2018, he underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix and was diagnosed with heart disease, which had been treated for more than a decade with medication.

Ben’s quality of life, however, increasingly suffered due to the arthritis and spinal degeneration, which required medication to treat the pain. The decision to euthanize Ben came when veterinary staff could no longer keep Ben comfortable. His condition ruled out surgery, according to a press release from the zoo. He was euthanized Feb. 12.

“Ben was such a gentle ape and an incredible father. He could often be seen interacting and playing with his offspring,” said Tim Snyder, vice president of animal care, in the press release. “Additionally, he had a very trusting relationship with his animal care specialists, and voluntarily participated in training sessions and his own health care. He will be greatly missed by the staff and the millions of guests who visited him.”

According to the press release, at the time of his death Ben was the second-oldest Bornean orangutan in an accredited zoo in North America. He arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 1992 on a breeding recommendation, and that recommendation turned out to be fruitful.

With his mate, Sophia, Ben sired four offspring, including Kekasih and Heidi, who still live at Tropic World: Africa. Ben also has four grandchildren and one great grandchild.