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Caring for Benny

Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a member of the Orangutan Care Team here at Zoo Atlanta. Have you ever wondered how long orangutans live? Well, Zoo Atlanta houses the oldest male Sumatran orangutan in human care. His name is Benny, and he just turned 43 years old!

The average life expectancy of orangutans is about 30 to 40 years old, with females typically living longer than males. The median life expectancy of male Sumatran orangutans specifically is about 25 years old. At his age, here at Zoo Atlanta, we consider Benny to be a geriatric individual. Geriatric is a term that we use to refer to older animals that we give more specialized care and attention to because of their age. Some of the things we do for older animals include modifying enrichment, changing diets, and providing supplements.

“Modifying enrichment” means that we are still providing many different forms of enrichment to geriatric animals, but we may need to change how we do so based on age-related limitations. For Benny this means making sure he can reach enrichment items, as he does not always climb as high. Another thing we do for Benny is provide him the ability to interact with enrichment alone without the other members of his group. This allows him to take his time to be able to enjoy enrichment that his group members might not share with him otherwise.

Geriatric animals sometimes have a harder time maintaining weight or a harder time chewing specific foods. Because of this, diets can be changed to include softer or cooked food, as well as other variations of caloric vegetables that other individuals may not get. Benny gets his own bag of extra food every day. These extras usually include an egg and a variety of different vegetables such as cooked sweet potato, corn, cauliflower, or cabbage.

Just like humans take vitamins and supplements, as they get older, our geriatric animals also receive similar items. The geriatric orangutans take gummy vitamins, just as older humans might take. This is a simple addition to their day that they truly enjoy eating and adds an extra layer or care for our aging animals. Benny looks forward to receiving his vitamins every day, and he likes to savor them for as long as possible.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about Benny and the ways we care for him as a geriatric orangutan here at Zoo Atlanta. Next time you are at the Zoo, take a look at Orangutan Habitat 2, and if you are lucky, you might get a glimpse of Benny.

Emily V.
Keeper I, Primates

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