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As zoo volunteer helped feed him, an orangutan ripped her thumb off, Ohio zoo says

Bajik, a 14-year-old male orangutan, recently bit a volunteer at the Toledo Zoo, causing her thumb to become detached during the encounter.
Bajik, a 14-year-old male orangutan, recently bit a volunteer at the Toledo Zoo, causing her thumb to become detached during the encounter. The Toledo Blade

A Toledo Zoo orangutan yanked a volunteer’s arm through a barrier Saturday during feeding, causing her to lose a thumb, but the zoo doesn’t blame the ape, The Toledo Blade reports.

“It’s not the animal’s fault in any way,” said Michael Frushour, the zoo’s curator of mammals, according to the publication. “They are a dangerous animal and intelligent.”

Bajik slipped his fingers through welded steel bars, grabbed the volunteer’s thumb and pulled her arm through the barrier, then bit her forearm — most likely using his mouth as another hand rather than as an attack, The Toledo Blade reported.

It’s not clear how the volunteer lost her thumb in the brief incident, but orangutans have enormous strength — Boomer, Bajik’s father, “once folded a quarter in half” with two fingers, according to the publication.

The injured volunteer was treated at a hospital, zoo officials wrote on Facebook. She’s “cautiously optimistic that the thumb will retain function and mobility” after being reattached.

An internal review shows “safety protocols were followed” in the incident, officials wrote. Bajik and the other orangutans remain in their exhibit and visible to the public.

There will be “no change to their daily care or schedules,” the Facebook post says.

In November 2016, a Toledo Zoo post on Facebook described Bajik as “our resident prankster.”

In an encounter with the zoo’s then-new executive director, Bajik played a game of “Simon Says” lining him up with a Splash Zone sprinkler and then dousing him with water, zoo officials wrote.

Male orangutans can reach a height of 5 feet and a weight of 300 pounds, according to Orangutan Foundation International. Their arms can reach up to 8 feet long, longer than their bodies.

Orangutans, found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, are Asia’s only great apes. In Malay, the word “orangutan” means “person of the forest,” according to the foundation.

Orangutans are considered critically endangered in the wild, the World Wildlife Fund says.

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