An orangutan whose name means "beautiful" and whose intelligence was called remarkable, is being hailed today as an ambassador for great ape science and conservation.
Indah, a female orangutan with the language research program at Great Ape Trust of Iowa was euthanized Thursday night following identification of a terminal medical condition. Indah, age 24, had been diagnosed with a bowel syndrome at a very young age and was treated for the condition throughout her life. Prior to her move to Great Ape Trust from Washington, DC in late September, a team of veterinarians from Great Ape Trust and Smithsonian's National Zoological Park conducted a routine pre-shipment physical examination that yielded no sign of the advancement of her condition.
At 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, Indah was anesthetized at Great Ape Trust to diagnose the cause of recent inactivity and loss of appetite. During the exam, veterinarians discovered an obstruction of the lower intestinal tract. Indah was taken to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After radiographs and CT scans were used to further diagnose Indah's condition, she was taken into surgery. The surgical team discovered that her bowel syndrome had manifested into an untreatable terminal state.
Indah was born at the National Zoo in 1980. In 1995, she began participating in the Think Tank and Orangutan Language Program with Dr. Shumaker. It's estimated at least 200,000 people viewed the language research sessions at the National Zoo.
"Those who experienced a research session with Indah left with a fundamental shift in their attitude about great apes, and our relationship to them," says Shumaker.
Dr. Benjamin Beck, director of conservation at Great Ape Trust, was co-founder of Think Tank at National Zoo and says Indah's contributions to science and conservation cannot be overstated.
"Indah was a terrific ambassador for her species - she created an awareness of great ape intelligence and the importance of great ape conservation in the wild," says Beck.