Beloved orangutan ‘Chantek’ of Zoo Atlanta dies at 39

Chantek (Credit: Zoo Atlanta)
Chantek (Credit: Zoo Atlanta)

ATLANTA, GA (WSPA) – The Zoo Atlanta announced that a 39-year-old orangutan named Chantek has died.

The cause of his death is not yet known, but the zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams had been treating Chantek and working to mitigate his progressive heart disease.

He was one of the oldest living male orangutans overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) in North America.

Orangutans are considered geriatric after about 35 years of age.

Chantek was born on December 17, 1977.

He was a beloved member of Zoo Atlanta for 20 years.

He was well-known for his knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL), which he learned prior to arriving at Zoo Atlanta in 1997.

He often used ASL to communicate with his caretakers, the zoo says.

“Chantek will be deeply missed by his family here at Zoo Atlanta. He had such a unique and engaging personality and special ways of relating to and communicating with those who knew him best. It has been our privilege to have had him with us for 20 years and to have been given the opportunity to offer him a naturalistic environment where he could get to know and live with his orangutan family,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “Chantek’s long life is a great testament to the dedication of his care team and to the work of the Great Ape Heart Project, the combined efforts of which made it possible for us to give him the best care and quality of life the zoological community has to offer.”

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